emotional health

Britney Spears, Amanda Bynes and Why Breaking Conservatorship Is Such a Powerful Victory

By | Celebrities, emotional health, Food for thought, Inspiring Celebrities, mental health, self-development

Perhaps no single word in recent times has been thrown around the pop culture lexicon with as much controversy and magnitude as “conservatorship.” 

The institution of conservatorship has existed in some form or another since the formalization of law and order. In essence, it grants authoritative powers to a guardian over another person or organization’s personal and professional affairs. Mostly, this is due to that person being too old, too young or too sick to make their own decisions , and is generally meant to protect them.

However, as we’ve seen in very public cases, like, most notably, the one faced by Britney Spears, there’s something particularly visceral about the full extent of what a conservatorship could entail, especially when grown people — in particular women — have to fight tooth and nail to escape them.

As a result, there has been a collective examination of the entire concept of conservatorship and how its ostensibly protective merit is often manipulated and distorted to control women and suppress their mental health struggles. The most recent example of a conservatorship in the public eye coming to a cathartic close, after Britney, is the case of Amanda Bynes.

Why Did Amanda Bynes Have a Conservatorship – And Was It Really Necessary?

On March 22, 2021, a Ventura County judge officially terminated the conservatorship for Amanda Bynes, who had been placed under her mother’s “protection” over nine years ago. As mentioned, this comes directly on the heels of Britney Spears’ conservatorship ruling in November, which finally put an end to the legal arrangement that had been controlling Britney’s personal care and wealth for well over 14 years. 

In Amanda’s case, many members of the public didn’t even know she was under conservatorship until it was announced she was filing to terminate the setup. Unlike Spears, Amanda didn’t have to go through a tedious, drawn-out struggle in the public eye to get the motion passed in her favor. Her demand was granted only a month later, with the actress finally granted the ability to decide her own state of affairs. 

Amanda’s decline from A-list teen sensation to a person publicly dealing with many issues surrounding mental health and addiction has been well-documented in the media. Since 2010, she has quit acting, been arrested multiple times for offenses like driving while intoxicated, and been admitted to psychiatric facilities to get the help she needs and deserves.

In August 2013, Amanda’s mother Lynn was ordered by a court to take over her daughter’s personal and financial affairs, with the judge citing that Amanda “poses a substantial risk to herself, to others, and to property.” Though Lynn did seek consultation from legal professionals over how she could best oversee Amanda’s estate and guardianship, she remained the primary conservator. 

Despite losing decision-making power over her own life, Amanda tried her best to improve her condition. She went to rehab, focused on her sobriety, pursued fashion as a professional pathway, and even found love. When it was reported she was trying to end her conservatorship, her loved ones and supporters couldn’t be more ecstatic. Even her mom and dad, who were said to have maintained a positive dynamic with Amanda throughout the ordeal, were on board with the termination.

The family lawyer, David A. Esquibias, told TMZthat the petition to end the conservatorship had been “years in the making” and that both Amanda’s mom and dad had “realized the significant progress [Amanda] made in coping with bipolar disorder.”

When the judge officially decided to discontinue the arrangement, Amanda, via a statement from her lawyer, said, “I would like to thank my fans for their love and well wishes during this time.” She also thanked her parents for their support over the last nine years. She concluded by saying she’d like to continue prioritizing her well-being and is excited about the new chapter in her journey. 

In the last several years, I have been working hard to improve my health so that I can live and work independently, and I will continue to prioritize my well-being in this next chapter.

Amanda Bynes via PEOPLE

Britney Spears and Free Britney sign

Britney Spears’ conservatorship, unlike Bynes’, had been so controversial and protracted, it effectively shattered the relationship between herself and her father, Jamie Spears, for good.

Spears’ conservatorship order was established in 2008 in the wake of her public breakdown, which included psychiatric restrictions and orders around her children’s safety. Much has been written about this period in Britney’s life — who was to blame, who should have provided support, to what extent should the public have weighed in, the responsibility carried by her loved ones — but the fact remains that Britney wasn’t given the resources she needed to heal. She was left to fend for herself, and therefore submitted to the legal protocol purported to heal her. 

Not only did my family not do a goddamn thing, my dad was all for it […] I’ve lied and told the whole world, ‘I’m OK, and I’m happy.’ I’m not happy. I’m so angry. It’s insane. And I’m depressed. I cry every day.

Britney Spears via Variety

As mentioned above, a temporary conservatorship can be beneficial in a few ways to help someone slow down and restore their mental faculties, but if a stipulation runs too long, it may endanger stripping those under protection of not just their autonomy but any semblance of inner peace they might achieve.

In Britney’s case, her family and legal team should have realized and recognized Britney’s progress as she was starting to demonstrate sound capabilities. Instead, they forced her to work in endeavors she had no passion for, prevented her from participating in rehabilitation, kept away her children, and governed her reproductive health. This took place for nearly 14 years, and it took a documentary and a global movement to reverse the damage. 

Why Breaking Away from Conservatorship Is So Important 

Not all conservatorships are equal — everyone will have a different experience, and for many, it is a necessary course of action. What more of us need to acknowledge, however, is how there’s a broader distaste for women going through mental health illnesses, and how, if they cross a supposed limit, they are punished, imprisoned, and in many ways, infantilized.

There is a way to help these women without trapping them in devastating circumstances that steal their lives for far too much time. On many occasions, as we’ve seen especially with Britney Spears, long-term conservatorship is just a convenient way to control women, their day-to-day lives, their long-term visions, their key relationships, and everything in between. The focus should be on nurturing these women, empowering them to fight their mental health struggles and helping them reclaim their right to freedom — not to keep them locked in the same situation, devoid of any agency or ownership.

The Truth Behind Lil Kim’s “New Face” Will Change The Way You Think About Her

By | dating, emotional health, family, Food for thought, Inspiring Celebrities, lil kim, mental health, Motivation, stories

Lil’ Kim is undoubtedly one of the brightest, most influential women in hip-hop, yet her legacy remains controversial for one reason or the other.

For the past twenty-five years, she’s been pushing the boundaries as a female rapper and breaking records in the process. She’s considered to have pioneered mainstream sex-positive feminism in hip-hop and has carved a path for many contemporary artists, including Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, and Kash Doll. In addition to her unique sound and lyrical matter, she’s known for her breathtaking, flamboyant fashion style and advocacy work for various causes. 

While she’s been an inspiring figure in more than many ways, she’s also let her fans down in others. The rapper, also known as Kimberly Jones, was convicted of three counts of conspiracy and one count of perjury on Marcy 17, 2005. She’d been caught lying to a federal grand jury about not having seen her friends at a scene of a 2001 gun shooting — a testimony that was subsequently proven wrong via video surveillance footage. Kim served twelve months in prison as a result. 

But lately, the criticism leveled at her isn’t about her past as a convict — it’s about her face. Here’s what we can learn from Lil’ Kim’s struggles with beauty and expectations:

Kim wanted to cover the injuries from an “abusive relationship”

[embedded content]

Lil’ Kim has been fielding criticisms and judgment about her face since the beginning of her career. In 2005, she went on a radio show and explained that she had had her nose broken during a physically abusive confrontation with an ex-boyfriend. Kim told the listeners that she, like many other women, had been part of a violent relationship that left her with a “broken nose, black eyes, all that stuff.”

The New York native revealed that she had to “fix her nose” not once but multiple times — every time she’d go through a procedure and come back to her boyfriend, he’d hit her again and send her reeling into a tangle of insecurities and self-loathing. It’s not just her face that was damaged as a result of these brutal attacks. Kim had to undergo multiple MRIs because “he beat me up so bad I couldn’t even move.” She also suffered from blood clots in her back. 

Kim was so tired of lying about her injuries, pretending they were “an allergic reaction,” and burying her bruises in makeup that she thought it would be better to get professional work done and wipe out those physical markings for once and for all. 

I kinda prayed the whole time. I didn’t know what to do. And it has a lot to do with my maturity too. It’s been times I was in the car with my ex-boyfriend and he punched me in my face and [I was] bleeding all over the car […] The doctor had to fix my nose [because] it was almost shattered. 

Lil’ Kim to The Source

The trauma led her to start her charitable organization, Lil’ Kim Cares, which does extraordinary work in raising awareness and funds for issues such as homelessness, child neglect, and violence against women. She’s also keen on showing that just because she’s a celebrity doesn’t mean that she doesn’t go through the same trials and tribulations as anyone else suffering from abuse. Like any other survivor, she has to muster up tons of courage to leave a toxic environment and learn to love herself again. 

Kim admitted she “cheated” with plastic surgery and didn’t think she was “good enough”

(Photo by Thaddaeus McAdams /FilmMagic)

It’s truly been an uphill battle for Kim to love herself, but she’s finally at a stage where she can do so to her heart’s content. It’s also crucial to note that Kim hasn’t always set a good example for her fans — she’s said and done things that have caused a tremendous amount of distrust and pain among her friends, family, and fans. 

Whereas the initial plastic surgery resulted from a violent altercation, Kim has admitted that she’s gotten more surgeries over the years by her own choice. She said she “cheated” and got several facial features “fixed up” as she pleased. In a 2000 interview, Lil’ Kim shared that she’s faced insecurities for as long as she could remember; her boyfriends kept cheating on her with “European-looking” women, the “long-hair type.” 

The mother-of-one said she felt like she couldn’t compete as a “regular black girl” and thought she wouldn’t ever be “good enough.” It’s not just former lovers that triggered feelings of doubt and shame in her; she also endured verbal humiliation at the hands of her father. She claimed, “It’s always been men putting me down, just like my dad.” 

To this day, when someone says I’m cute, I can’t see it. I don’t see it no matter what anybody says.

Lil’ Kim to Newsweek 

The continuous barrage of disapproval made its way to her head, and she felt like she had no choice but to turn to cosmetic surgery. Kim said, “It was like I could do nothing right, everything about me was wrong — my hair, my clothes, just me.” The fact that she’s getting condemned for conforming to the same expectations that were imposed on her in the first place is hypocrisy at its cruelest. Lil’ Kim likely didn’t ask to be saddled with the weight of these debilitating insecurities — they were drilled into her from a young age and were continually reinforced by the men in her life. 

Plastic surgery is a contentious issue that has neither wrong nor a right side. We have to trust women that they’re aware of the health implications and that they understand the full extent of what they’re choosing to undergo. It’s a massive, irreversible decision, and so it should be treated as such. As long as the person comes out on the other side feeling confident and beautiful, we don’t have the right to chide the person. 

At the same time, no one should feel so pressured to look a certain way that they perceive plastic surgery as a necessity, not a choice. Lil’ Kim couldn’t overcome her anxieties and had been fixated on her so-called imperfections for so long that the only way to get peace of mind was to go under the knife. It’s perhaps even more frustrating to see that her career is dominated by rumors of skin bleaching, lip injections, boob jobs, so on and forth when there are far more substantive points to discuss — including her run-is with law enforcement and her illustrious body of work. 

I’m a person who may get bored with my look sometimes. I love what God gave me, but sometimes I want to dress it up.

Lil’ Kim on One World Music Beat

Don’t let assumptions guide your judgment 

Sometimes it’s just best to see something and move on without asserting your opinion about it. People have been berating Kim for a long time — both before and after her plastic surgeries. If they had kept their assumptions at bay from the get-go, Kim wouldn’t have felt forced to go under the knife. 

Conventional beauty doesn’t determine the value of a person; what matters is the person behind the face and the work they’re doing to improve their lives and their collective society around them. Lil Kim has all but transformed the world of her hip-hop through her intuitive, thoughtful, and powerful music. Why must we let our presumptions drive our opinion of the artist? Especially since the artist herself had deeply personal and medical reasons to get many of these surgeries in the first place. Lil’ Kim has her own flaws, but choosing to love herself despite the criticisms shows endurance. And that’s something we can take away from her journey. 

More inspiring stories:

After Nearly Dying, This Man Lost Over 250 Pounds And Went After His Dream

By | emotional health, Food for thought, inspiring, mindset, Motivation, physical health, stories, success stories

When John Arpino woke up in the hospital in 2015, following a major asthma attack that nearly killed him, he vowed to lose weight and transform his life. 

At the time, he weighed 500 pounds.

I remember being petrified. I was going to die in my house at 22-years-old.

John Arpino in Daily Mail

As a child, John couldn’t train because of his asthma

Soon after he was born, John developed severe asthma and allergies for which he started being treated for at the age of two.

As a kid, he spent several Halloween nights at the hospital and his condition prevented him from participating in physical activity.

“I was constantly bullied from a young age until I graduated high school. I couldn’t walk around school because of my weight,” John remembered. 

I had to be given a key to the elevator in school because I couldn’t walk up and down the stairs, and I had to write book reports instead of participating in gym class.

John Arpino

John struggled with low self-esteem and hated the way he looked and felt. His weight stopped him from going to college after his high school graduation, because he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to get around campus or fit behind the desks.

But then, he had a major wake-up call

After his grandmother passed away in early 2015, John fell into a deep depression and coped with food and drinking, but that all changed when he had a massive asthma attack he almost didn’t survive.

“I couldn’t take a breath, it was like every bit of air was trapped inside my lungs while the weight of the whole world rested upon my chest,” remembered John. 

I couldn’t speak, sweat started to pour from every part of my body. Somehow I was able to scream for my parents to call an ambulance.

John Arpino

Paramedics apologized to John while they put him on a stretcher, just as slipped in and out of consciousness.

“I remember looking at the clock above the door of the ambulance and praying to God and to my grandmother who had recently passed that February for another chance. I knew I had messed up,” he said.

He took his second chance seriously

Once he regained consciousness, he knew he was running out of options and committed to changing his ways.

My life was spared so it was time to make those changes I promised.

John Arpino

As soon as he could, John started going to the gym regularly and was able to lose 80 pounds, but his asthma kept getting in the way of his progress and he went back on steroids after another attack.

When he realized he wouldn’t be able to lose all the weight he wanted to on his own, John made the life-changing decision to undergo gastric sleeve surgery, in November 2016.

The surgery helped him drop down to 252 pounds from his initial 500 and John’s learned not to take life for granted.

The best part? How he feels about himself

“I am a totally different person now, I love life, I love challenges and I love proving myself and other people wrong and rewriting my life story,” he said. 

“My health has improved dramatically, I no longer have high blood pressure or sleep apnoea, and my asthma is pretty much non-existent.”

His transformation journey has allowed him to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a professional wrestler and has since performed in several shows, calling the experience “the thrill of his life.”

He’s documented his journey on instagram to keep himself accountable along the way, but also uses his platform to inspire others who are struggling to lose weight.

“Honestly it’s the greatest feeling in the world being able to inspire others because I know when I was at my lowest, I needed someone like my current self to guide me, to show me things were possible when I didn’t think they were,” said John.

“’My major goal in life is to help show everyone that the ‘impossible’ doesn’t exist, and you can truly have anything you want in life and pursue every single dream and break every goal, that’s the only thing that matters to me.”

More inspiring transformations:

30 Healing Quotes That Will Encourage and Give You Comfort

By | emotional health, Food for thought, inspiring, Quotes

Life happens to everyone. We all experience emotional pain at some point and we’ll need to find the time and ways to heal ourselves.

No matter how cautious we are in planning our lives or in choosing the ones we spend more time with, pain is inevitable. Whenever life hits you, you need to remind yourself that you have the power to overcome any struggle. Just be patient and understand that certain wounds need more time to heal than others.

Emotional strength is not something we’re born with, but something we build while dealing with different life events. Whatever you are going through right now, know that it won’t last forever and that it eventually will make you stronger. Going through hardships builds resilience and some of the following healing quotes are proof of that.

If you don’t already know what calms and soothes your mind and soul, take some time to find out and do that thing as often as possible. In the meantime…

Here are 30 healing quotes that will encourage and give you comfort:

The wound is the place where the Light enters you. 

RUMI (more Rumi quotes)

As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course. 

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. (more Marti Luther King Jr. quotes)

To recognize one’s own insanity is, of course, the arising of sanity, the beginning of healing and transcendence. 

ECKHART TOLLE (more Eckhart Tolle quotes)

You have the power to heal your life, and you need to know that. We think so often that we are helpless, but we’re not. We always have the power of our minds… Claim and consciously use your power. 

LOUISE HAY (more Louise Hay quotes)

The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.  


Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.  

KAHLIL GIBRAN (more Kahlil Gibran quotes)

As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal somebody else. 

MAYA ANGELOU (more Maya Angelou quotes)

But pain’s like water. It finds a way to push through any seal. There’s no way to stop it. Sometimes you have to let yourself sink inside of it before you can learn how to swim to the surface. 


Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it.  


Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us. 


Laughter completely engages the body and releases the mind. It connects us to others, and that in itself has a healing effect. 


The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world. 


Some people see scars, and it is wounding they remember. To me they are proof of the fact that there is healing. 


Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. 

HELEN KELLER (more Helen Keller quotes)

One of the most healing things you can do is recognize where in your life you are your own poison.  


Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.


Love is the most important healing power there is.  


When I stand before thee at the day’s end, thou shalt see my scars and know that I had my wounds and also my healing.  


Healing is an inside job.  


The place of true healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really hard to get there, but you can do it.  


Every step taken in mindfulness brings us one step closer to healing ourselves and the planet.


Self-forgiveness is essential to self-healing.  


Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.  


Ultimately, there can be no complete healing until we have restored our primal trust in life.


To heal is to touch with love that which we previously touched with fear.  


Tears are God’s gift to us. Our holy water. They heal us as they flow.  


Even the smallest shift in perspective can bring about the greatest healing. 


Music is such a great healing balm and a great way to forget your troubles. 


Give it air and let the scar on your soul reveal itself, because, like the body, it too was made to heal itself.


Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy. 


How To Combat Body Image Issues Without Actually Changing Your Body

By | challenging, emotional health, Food for thought, goalcast originals, mental health, purpose, stories

When coronavirus lockdown and social restrictions were announced in Germany, my first reaction was that it wouldn’t cause a huge change to my lifestyle. I have a fairly simple life, I work as a freelancer in my home office and cafes, I spend lots of time in solitude and my social calendar is fairly low-profile.

Yes, I’d miss the small things that are part of my routine, but this was a good excuse to deepen my meditation practice and step-up for those in need of emotional support. Then it dawned on me: the gym’s closed. My sacred space between the dumbbells and the squat racks, out of bounds, for months.

There may appear to be a conflict for a meditation teacher and coach who emphasizes our identity is not linked to the body. Whilst I’d love to profess I knew I’d miss the gym exclusively for the mental health benefits (of which there are many) I also knew it was going to challenge my relationship with my body, a familiar foe from the past.

Bigorexia, body image, and self-worth

I’ve been a regular gym-goer for over 10 years. The longest I’ve spent without going to the gym in this time was just under two months, when I first moved to Berlin. I’ve grappled with various issues in my relationship to exercise; from unintentionally punishing my body, to obsessively trying to get as muscular and defined as (super)humanly possible.

It’s a risk that comes with a hobby linked to the way you look. Combined with Hollywood images of the hyper-jacked, from Chris Evans to Hugh Jackman, and links between physical appearance and self-worth, it’s no surprise body image issues are a huge cause of emotional distress.

Women are most commonly associated with bodily insecurity, though eating disorders in men have risen 70 percent, and 45 percent of men said they’ve experienced “bigorexia,” the term given to an obsession with muscle-building. With the lack of gym access, high levels of stress, change to routine, and comfort eating, lockdown has created what Mayo Clinic psychologist Leslie Sim refers to as a “perfect storm” for body image issues.

Gyms are open again in Berlin, and it’s good to be back. However, towards the end of the three months’ with no access, the return of familiar thinking-patterns and feelings towards my body (not to mention the genuinely noticeable change in how my body felt and looked) led me to return to a familiar issue with a fresh perspective.

So what’s the link with body image and identity, and how do we develop a skillful approach that will benefit, not hinder, spiritual growth?

Judgment and the root of body image

This body, too: Such is its nature, such is its future, such its unavoidable fate.” — Kāyagatāsati Sutta

To identify with the body means mistaking our physical structure as who we are. The process of mindfulness, meditation, and spiritual growth is to understand that who we are is much wider and more extensive than the confines of the body itself. From this perspective, the body can be compared to a vessel which provides a “home” for your individual, unique expression of consciousness.

When we identify with the physical body, we might become attached to its sensations, emotions, and sense of separation. Body image issues arise when we place our inherent value on our physical appearance. Suddenly, self-worth is linked to the way the body looks.

Such a hierarchy of values is largely dictated by a culture that pervades the collective psyche with images of bodily perfection and unattainable beauty standards. From Hollywood to the advertising and beauty industries, the message is clear: here’s the way you should look, and good looks are the recipe to happiness and success.

This creates a vicious cycle of judgment. We judge the value of our appearance and, perhaps unconsciously, do the same to others. The body becomes objectified, a malleable object to sculpt, censor, change, to fit the standards that exist outside of ourselves.

In doing so, it’s possible to lose all appreciation for the gifts the body bestows — legs that move us from one place to the other, a heart that beats for a lifetime, a stomach that extracts nourishment from the food we eat, lungs that inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, eyes that see the beauty of the world… these are overlooked and obscured by one determining factor: physical appearance.

Developing a healthy relationship with the body

The body is a beautiful thing: it’s incredibly intelligent, wise, and adaptable. Having undergone a lot of work to improve my relationship with my body, I can tell you meditation is a powerful tool. I can also tell you that saying “you are not your body” as a seeming antidote offers very little value. It’s one thing knowing this, but it doesn’t offer a practical solution to what can be a very invasive and life-altering challenge.

I believe in making spiritual practice practical and accessible. So here are 5 steps I find helpful in improving your relationship with your body:

  1. Challenge judgmental thoughts: Mindfulness allows you to gain greater clarity on your thoughts. Notice how often judgemental thoughts arise: remember, they aren’t truths, but inherited thoughts from cultural values. When these thoughts arise, as well as observing them, challenge them gently. I challenge thoughts by reframing my self-talk in the same manner I would talk to a close friend.
  2. Meditate on the feeling of the body: Use meditation to simply sit and notice the rich universe of sensations that ebb and flow throughout the body. See if you can notice without labeling “good” or “bad” or “pleasant” or “unpleasant.” See how the body communicates and sense its aliveness. You can sample this now: close your eyes, breathe deeply, and spend a few moments paying attention to the sensations in your hands.
  3. Communicate with the body: You might feel a bit silly, but this works. One of my big breakthroughs came during meditation. I instinctively started an inner-dialogue with my body, and apologies for the way I’d been treating it. I was taking it for granted, exercising excessively, and taking little time to send appreciation. When I said the words “I’m sorry, thank you for all you do for me,” I burst into tears — my body responded to my apology and expression of gratitude with a chorus of chills.
  4. Develop a mindset of fascination: When viewed through the perspective of physical appearance, we look at the body with a judgemental eye, scanning its contours and curves looking for imperfection. Instead, see if you can shift your mindset to one of fascination. Explore the magic of the body: how it heals, how it provides you with the nutrients you need to stay alive. If you sense a change in your appearance, try and apply the same mindset. For example, “ah, look at how my body has adapted to less exercise.”
  5. Send loving-kindness towards your body: The loving-kindness meditation is a powerful, heart-opening practice. In meditation, I found a shift in the way I connected to my body when I visualized a bright, white light (representing unconditional love) throughout my body, whilst extending gratitude for all it offers.

Learning to change your relationship is a slow process, which involves exploring the body from the perspective of gratitude and fascination. Though it may seem irrational to be concerned about physical appearance during a global pandemic, body image issues are one of the most prevalent and pervasive causes of emotional distress – so be easy on yourself.

Rather than aiming to sculpt your body to perfection or learn to love your physical appearance, aim to gradually improve your relationship over time. Listen to your body’s form of communication. Be inquisitive. Sooner or later, this leads to greater harmony, connection, and gratitude, as you become receptive to the body’s inherent wisdom.

More inspiring articles:

How Can Boundary Setting Turn a Toxic Friendship Into a Healthy One?

By | emotional health, Food for thought, goalcast originals, self, stories

Boundary setting is surprisingly life-changing. For people pleasers, the authentic expression of wants, needs, and desires is often secondary to fulfilling the needs of others. The curious trap is, “others” are usually loved ones. And these are typically the relationships in most need of boundaries. 

The communication of needs is balanced with fears of upsetting someone, appearing selfish, being rejected or losing relationships completely. If done correctly, however, setting boundaries saves friendships. It doesn’t destroy them.

I’ve decided to highlight friendships for two reasons. Friendships are intimate and committed relationships spanning years. But they don’t have the supportive literature or guidance they deserve; most topics, particularly online, center around romance of familial relationships. 

Despite being just as complex (minus the addictive qualities of “falling in love”), friendships don’t receive the same level of scrutiny as romance. Yet there’s high potential for codependency, communication breakdowns, and even break-ups.

A breeding ground for resentment

As I explained with “skilled niceness,” a lot of the time “nice” behavior is inauthentic. There’s no avoiding that if we continually overexert ourselves or put others’ needs first, there will be a slow, residual build-up of tension.

This tension manifests emotionally as resentment or frustration or annoyance or bitterness. Interestingly, in my experience, the relationships in most need of boundaries are also those where people feel most comfortable expressing “shadow” emotions.

In these relationships, there’s an interesting balance. There’s less of a facade than casual relationships, yet not quite enough vulnerability to express deeper desires. For example, you might find yourself snapping at your best friend or becoming passive aggressive in ways you wouldn’t with someone you know less well.

Pay very close attention to your inner messaging system around such emotions. Personally, to feel (not just intellectually understand) what authentic boundaries I desire, I’m vigilant of my emotional reaction to situations. I ask myself — what is my unconscious attempting to tell me?

Using this is a guide, I dig deeper and spot the ways I’m overexerting or saying yes (or no!) too often. I have to look within, understand why. To put it crudely, guilt is a huge catalyst in saying yes inauthentically, while bitterness, frustration or resentment are signs I’m overly compromising.

Once I gain clarity, I have to take responsibility, rather than blame the situation. When it comes to boundaries, responsibility is enacted through communication.

Honesty is the best policy

Picture two long-term friendships. The first is largely running on auto-pilot, with little communication and no expression of boundaries. Over a number of years, expectations around behavior, imbalances in emotional support, and codependent traits have piled up and remained unchallenged.

In the second friendship, there are conscious attempts to express boundaries. On the short-term, this is more difficult than the easier path of “avoiding conflict.” There’s an emotional stirring (guilt, anger, upset) and challenging conversations. However, through this, both people honestly share what’s working and what isn’t. 

The framework for the relationship is updated, consciously. By clearing the air, new standards and agreements are set. There’s a greater mutual understanding of needs. There’s more space. There’s less unspoken, and difficult emotions have been processed.

Feeling the fear and talking anyway

In my experience, such conversations seem terrifying yet when they’re approached with compassion and understanding, they deepen the levels of intimacy and closeness in all friendships. However, to avoid pitfalls of victimhood and resentment, we must accept full responsibility.

Many of us maintain and nourish relationships through a sense of obligation. The expression of boundaries is in many ways the search for the truth of the relationship, a relationship built on honesty and not expectation and obligation. This isn’t to be mistaken for coldness or a merciless approach. Instead, it’s a gentle exploration and search for common ground.

Such conversations are difficult with friends you’ve known for years. A lot of expectations and behavioral patterns are ingrained over time. Yet all friendships can benefit from a new lease of life and lightness when closer aligned to what feels right.

Embracing the risk of drifting apart

A few years ago, whilst training as a coach, the importance of setting boundaries was reiterated over-and-over. Stepping up from supporting friends to professional helper required a radically new approach to investing time and energy. During this period I made the clear intention to stop living my life imprisoned by a sense of obligation. 

Obligations crippled me. I shaped myself to fit the mold of others.

There is a risk of relationships drifting apart when we stop living by obligation. There’s no guarantee your boundaries will be respected. This is okay.

If a relationship drifts because of open communication and a realization the relationship isn’t authentically aligned, it was supposed to drift. If a relationship drifts because someone lacks respect for your boundaries, it was supposed to drift.

Both of these scenarios differ from relationships drifting due to building resentment and unexpressed needs. Here, honest communication can save the relationship before it’s too late.

In such situations, I ask myself: do I want to hold onto relationships through fear of losing them? Is this a skillful way to invest energy? Do I want to be friends with someone who shows little respect for my needs? Are we drifting authentically, or because of a communication breakdown?

No one else knows your truth unless you express it

Friendships are highly individual and complex. I’ve experienced codependency in many forms and from both sides, be it emotional support, social “back-up” (for example, going to an event and always needing certain friends nearby), expectations around how often to see each other, emotionally availability, etc.

It’s not that I’m ever surrounded by manipulative people, either. All my friends are caring, loving individuals. I’d just developed a trait of automatically appeasing, perhaps driven by the unconscious fear of rejection. When this is the default stance, the natural flow of relating will be guided by whoever takes the lead.

No one else other than ourselves knows what we want, our “truth.” If we don’t communicate and say: “You know what guys, I want to cut back on alcohol and I’d like to be up early Saturday morning, so I won’t join for drinks,” then it’s likely we’ll receive further invites to bars and clubs. We have to take full responsibility for communicating what we need. 

Getting annoyed at others for acting against our needs, when those needs remain unexpressed, is self-sabotage. It’s futile and causes unnecessary suffering.

Living for the authentic yes

The sense of freedom and autonomy found through the process of boundary setting is profound. I didn’t go from one extreme to the other. But I was able to tune-in and re-calibrate.

I’ve moved closer to what I really want from life. I’m able to communicate clearly, most of the time. I still find such conversations challenging but I’m improving. 

Rather than create more distance, I say no without guilt and say yes with conviction. Before, I was always saying yes with indifference. Now I enjoy the pleasure of an authentic yes.

If in doubt, always remember: one enthusiastic yes is worth a thousand forced yeses.

This works both ways. What genuinely feels better when roles are reversed — someone who says yes to everything? Or a “yes” from someone who has clear boundaries and often says no? 

When the latter says yes, you know there’s a high chance the decision is made with conviction. These are the yeses I wish to receive. With these yeses, I know where I stand.

Setting boundaries improves our respect for others

The mirroring of this is increased respect for others’ boundaries. If we don’t set boundaries, it’s unlikely we’ll be particularly tuned into others’ needs. If we feel obliged to act for others, we’ll likely (albeit unconsciously) expect the same in return. This causes problems down the road. It’s unhealthy.

When exploring the benefits of boundary setting for ourselves, we’re better able to respect others’ without condition. Setting boundaries and feeling the impersonal nature of their expression frees us from irritation or rejection when others do the same. It allows us to understand their expression isn’t personal, either.

Friendships are give and take. There will be times where there are imbalances. But if unhealthy traits have solidified in the relationship and make either or both people uncomfortable, it’s time to talk. It takes courage. There will be nerves. But it could be the conversation that saves your friendship.

More helpful articles:

Tina Turner Beat the Odds by Leaving Ike– and She’s Still Shining at Age 80

By | emotional health, Food for thought, heartbreak, inspiring, Inspiring Celebrities, musicians, self, tina turner

Whether it’s her enduringly poignant hit “What’s Love Got to Do with It?,” the subtle-not-so-subtle sense of raw sexuality and power mingling in “Private Dancer”, or the vulnerably joyful tone of her timeless classic “Simply the Best”, Tina Turner is best known for her strong and scintillating solo music career of the 1980s. 

Often dubbed the bonafide Queen of Rock ‘n Roll, Tina celebrated her 80th birthday, prompting a look back through the 8 (count them) decades of struggle, badassery, and success that make up her life thus far– including a career spanning 6 decades.

If there’s anything we can learn from the inimitable Tina Turner, it is that in spite of numerous personal tragedies, she has always bounced back stronger.

Tina’s life changed when she left Ike

Born Anna Mae Bullock, Tina Turner was the daughter of a Tennessee farm worker. She moved around a lot in the early days, and eventually found herself in St. Louis where she met bandleader Ike Turner in 1957 and entered into a musical duo– an long-infamous 16-year-long abusive marriage– with him.

Many of us will remember the very disturbing 1993 Tina Turner biopic What’s Love Got to Do with It, which documented her rise to fame under the constant threat of Ike Turner’s rage. The film was adapted from her 1987 memoir, I, Tina, in which she revealed in brutal detail the years of abuse, humiliation, and manipulation she went through during her marriage, including public beatings, infidelity, and a suicide attempt. 

When Tina was finally able to walk away, she barely had a cent to her name

Ike and Tina Turner Portrait
(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Still, she managed to work her way back up, and launch an incredibly successful solo career in the 80s— even though she was a good 20 years older than most artists in the pop world. She rose to stardom in her 40s and 50s— as a woman, and an African American to boot, I might add.

Talk about beating the odds, to hell and back!

One might say that Tina’s relationship with Ike was the original hurdle she had to contend with to get to where she is today.

She was finally able to shine

The strength she had to leave an abusive relationship—in spite of the financial hardship and struggle that followed—remains a testament to her inspiring vitality.

And hey, unfortunately her story is still very relevant to women struggling to leave abusive partners, of which there are many.

Today, Tina says she no longer thinks much about Ike, who died of a drug overdose in 2007.

Tina’s true love helped heal her

If Tina’s an inspiration to those who believe they’re too old to rise into their true power, let her also be an inspiration to those who think it’s too late to find love.

She married her long-term love, German producer Erwin Bach (over 16 years her junior) in 2013 at the age of 74—which she details in her 2018 memoir My Love Story.

They had been romantically involved for 27 years before marrying. But, just three weeks after the wedding, she suffered a stroke and had to relearn how to walk. And that’s not all. She also got intestinal cancer, followed by kidney disease. 

Through it all, she’s found comfort in her Buddhist beliefs. That’s right, Tina’s been a blooming Buddhist since 1973. “In Buddhism you accept the life and the death. I was ready, I just thought it was my time,” she’s said.

But, it totally wasn’t, because her husband Bach donated one of his kidneys, and the transplant saved her life. Now, she’s not just alive, but thriving. How’s that for transcendent romance?

Her struggles weren’t over

Turner had two biological sons, Craig, who she gave birth to when she was only 18 (his biological father was Kings of Rhythm saxophonist Raymond Hill), and Ronnie (son of Ike Turner). She also adopted two of Ike Turner’s children, Ike Turner Jr. and Michael Turner, raising all 4 as her own. 

If all that already seems like a lot, consider Tina Turner’s most recent personal tragedy: her eldest son Craig took his own life just last year at the age of 59.

Taking to Twitter after it happened, Tina called it her “saddest moment as a mother.”

I still don’t know what took him to the edge.

Tina to the BBC in 2018

Turner told the BBC that his passing came as a total shock given that he’d just fallen in love and started a new job.

A poison that turned into medicine

Tina turner
(Photo by Ricky Vigil/GC Images)

These days, Tina Turner lives in Switzerland with her husband, and is currently enjoying her 10th year of retirement.

Back in 2000 she launched a farewell tour, but ended up taking to the stage again in 2008 at the age of 69 to celebrate her 50th anniversary in music. She gave it the type of energy that would have depleted someone half her age, and got through 90 shows. Her last performance took place in 2009 in front of a very lucky British audience.

If you don’t feel you’ll ever get enough Tina though, save your stress. Tina, The Tina Turner Musical is currently on Broadway. At the opening of the show, she told the crowd:

It’s like poison that turned to medicine… I can never be as happy as I am now.

“People think my life has been tough, but I think it’s been a wonderful journey,” she explained in 2018. “The older you get, the more you realize it’s not what happened, it’s how you deal with it.”

Ageing has been a blessing

On her very recent 80th birthday, Tina rightfully took to social media to celebrate her day.

“Yes, I’m 80″ she said. “How did I think I would be at 80? Not like this. How is this? Well, I look great, I feel good, I’ve gone through some very serious sicknesses that I’m overcoming.”

It’s like having a second chance at life. I’m happy to be an 80-year-old woman.

While another Tina tour seems hard to imagine at this point, with all she’s survived, it’s impossible to fully rule out the idea. I mean, if Tina Turner can keep following her life’s dream at age 80, we can do the same thing with the passion in our own lives.

More inspiring musicians:

How I Conquered Social Anxiety by Assuming Positive Intent

By | emotional health, empowering, Food for thought, how-to guide, mindset, personal essay, self

Did you know: only 4 percent of the universe is visible? The other 96 percent is a mystery scientists call “dark matter” and “dark energy.” This is significant; humanity goes to great lengths to understand the nature of the physical universe, yet even with advanced technology, the majority remains unseen, unknown.

This obscure nature of the cosmos is a metaphor for our subjective universe. Most of us have an inherent desire to just know, to observe, to see what is there to see. But the vast majority of our lives are mysterious — as much as our egos would like to tell us they have all the answers. 

People are mysterious in their own way, too. We never know what other people really think. We never know why they do the things they do or why events unfold as they unfold.

And without active self-inquiry, we don’t even know ourselves as well as we might think.

The analytical mind’s ties to social anxiety

This is a potential problem. The analytical part of your psyche always seeks to know, to understand. If allowed to roam free, it will attempt to make meaning of empty space and fill gaps in knowledge with assumptions.

When applied to social anxiety, your overactive analytical mind will attempt to explain people’s behavior or “true” thoughts and feelings.

It’s a double-edged sword. Because life is 96 percent mystery, there’s a broad spectrum of assumption in our understanding of it.

Consequently, the standard of our tool for understanding — the mind — becomes essential to our quality of life.

Filling the gaps is irresistible for the ego, which always attempts to self-authenticate by exploring its environment to make sense of its identity.

This is a process which affects all of us to various degrees, but the task is to ensure the process is skillful, not unskillful.

How I eased my social anxiety

When I suffered from social anxiety, my mind assumed the worst. This affected my thoughts in any given moment.

They don’t like me, I’ve upset this person, that person is judging me.

I was also plagued by ruminations after social interactions.

I made a fool of myself

Most debilitating was the latter, ruminations triggered by assumptions. A short-circuit in my analytic brain attempted to find meaning based on little evidence. This fuelled my anxiety and made it worse. In turn, I then felt more anxious about future social events!

It’s not an exaggeration to say at times, my life was unbearable due to the assumptions I was making.

The mantra that changed my life

During therapy around that time, I came across a short-but-sweet, life-enhancing motto:

Always Assume Positive Intent

I discussed this with my therapist and we both agreed how beneficial this approach was.

The key to Always Assuming Positive Intent is to understand that, with so much unknown, there’s a huge, blank canvas to project assumptions.

And, with a little imagination we can drastically alter those assumptions, and get them working in our favor.

Don’t ignore the 4 percent

The key with this technique isn’t to delude ourselves or absolve responsibility from hard truths. When the observable 4 percent of the universe presents itself, we have to see it as it is.

That’s not to say we practice believing in these assumptions. It’s crucial to maintain a mindful approach, and acknowledge that assumptions are just thoughts, and not truth.

However, this mantra’s greatest utility is alleviating tension when the mind wonders and worries.

Always Assuming Positive Intent is a doorway to compassion

Compassion is a catalyst to seeking to understand from a place of love, not judging from a place of fear.

Always Assuming Positive Intent is a cognitive tool to counteract the moments when we assume the worst. It has its roots in Stoicism and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which challenges unhelpful thoughts, and rationalizes them.

This approach is best complemented with acceptance of the unknown. It’s to be held lightly; mini-narratives created consciously and loosely, a buffer to fill space skilfully, a moulding of clay.

How to Always Assume Positive Intent

Practically there are two ways to apply Assuming Positive Intent.

The first is an internal application; to change the thoughts we have.

When noticing we are assuming the worst in any given situation, we can play with the assumption and ask ourselves:

What would the best possible assumption be?

This can be as outrageous as we want it to be! After all, we’re moulding the conceptual clay, without mistaking it for truth.

That person who blanked you this morning? They caught your eye, thought you were attractive, and felt self-conscious.

Your partner’s angry at you for not replying? They’ve missed you lately and want to feel intimacy and connection.

A recent study by Queen’s University Belfast discovered that people with grandiose narcissistic traits are generally happier and less stressed. I can’t help but think this is because, with a heightened sense of self-importance, narcissistic people always assume positive intent in any given situation. After all, why wouldn’t they?

Inquiring to understand

The second application is in action.

As conscious beings, we have the gift of being able to inquire. Like the Hubble Telescope peering deep into space seeking to understand what’s out there, we can peer into the souls of others by seeking to understand what they think, feel, or believe.

It’s not easy, but it is a trait that greatly benefits all relationships.

If finding yourself in conflict, or even just questioning why someone is acting in a specific way, seek to understand by opening up a conversation from a place of sincerity. By assuming positive intent, you’re more likely to master emotions and remain balanced throughout the conversation.

Transforming your universe

What are the bigger benefits of Always Assuming Positive Intent? When it becomes second-nature, the benefit for our lives is significant.

Many of us are familiar with paranoia. But we’re less familiar with pronoia — the opposite perception; a feeling that the universe is conspiring to help you.

Assuming Positive Intent is a mini-step in the direction of pronoia, a technique to get the vast unknown working in your favor, to re-balance and re-align, to stare into space and see support in the sparkle of the stars.

The 5 Stages of Grieving Your Past Self — so You Can Move Forward

By | emotional health, Food for thought, inspiring, personal essay, self

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an archaeologist. From the time I was very little I was determined. I was going to be an archaeologist for sure. There was no other option.

And then I grew up. And I am not an archaeologist.

Don’t get me wrong, my life is great– even though I am not in Greece excavating pottery shards. But when I first realized that dream was not going to become a reality, I was sad. For many reasons, but mostly because when I realized that I was not going to be an archaeologist was the day I dropped out of college.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I wouldn’t finish school. To say it was a blow is an understatement.

It was incredibly painful, but I had become a mom and I needed to provide for my kids above anything. In order to avoid feeling my sadness I pushed on to the next thing.

I found a new career and focused on that. And each time I changed companies or got a promotion or started a new endeavor, I kept up with this process: abandoning the past version of myself in order to establish a new one.

So how did I do it?

I abandoned my past self to move forward

Moving from version to version of ourselves is a common practice. When we move forward on to something that is good, why would we want to feel anything other than positivity towards it?

On top of that, everyone in our life wants to talk about how awesome the change is so it is only natural to want to dedicate yourself to that positive attitude as well.

And there are other times that we do this also, specifically after we have gone through any sort of trauma or major life change. Things like an abusive relationship, a house fire, even having a baby or getting married.

Because we are moving into a new stage of life we want to focus on the positives of it more than anything else. We try to push past the things we are giving up or that are being taken from us to create a new version of ourselves. This new version has new things and wants new dreams.

I began to lose myself

Yes, this process is fine if you need a life raft for a moment but unfortunately, is not very effective when it comes to actually resolving and healing our past. And, it also limits your ability to honor your future.

What I began to notice was, with every life change and every decision, every time I abandoned a version of myself to make a better one or to move on as fast as possible, I was actually just ignoring my needs.

It was a way of avoiding any feelings that were dense or hard to feel in favor of focusing on the positive ones that were easier to process.

Which is not positive after all.

The side-effects of ignoring grief

I started struggling emotionally because I had never taken the time to honor the past versions of myself that I had simply been leaving behind.

I had never grieved for the dreams I had given up or goals I would never reach or the communities I had lost. I realized that if I was going to truly learn how to be in alignment with myself I needed to honor who I used to be.

Grief is not typically viewed in a positive light

In fact, even the word grief conjures up images of wearing all black and death. But grief is an incredibly healthy process and something that we should all be intimately comfortable with.

First, let me say this, everyone grieves in different ways so if you want to start honoring your past by grieving the selves you used to be, you may already know how to do that based on your personal brand of grieving. But, if you are reading this thinking how the heck do I even start grieving myself, there are a few quick ways to get the process started.

The 5 stages of grieving yourself

Photo Credit: sean Kong on Unsplash

The typical model that people use to think about grief is the Kubler-Ross model, which outlines five stages of grief.

These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, then acceptance — a cycle of grief. And, if you think back on a time when you went through a big life change you may have experienced some iteration of these stages, though, at the time, you may not have be conscious of why.

If you go through a big change where you are stepping into a new version of yourself, this model can be very helpful to you.

Take the time to honor the feelings that are coming up for you by journaling or talking with a friend, or even just simply crying. Allow yourself to experience what you are going through even if you don’t think you should be feeling what you are.

Your feelings are valid, and honoring them will help you to move forward

Yes, even the positive changes are a cause for grief. And that is perfectly okay.

However, if you haven’t ever taken the time to grieve the past versions of yourself and now it is years later, and, like me, you are experiencing things like anxiety, it may be hard to work through the Kubler-Ross model because you aren’t in the heart of the incident that is causing the grief.

You can still take the time to honor the person (or people) you used to be.

Embrace your grief

A good place to start is by forgiving yourself. Often we hold ourselves brutally accountable for pain that we have caused ourselves. But nothing good comes from continuing to harbor grudges towards our past.

Take time every day to look yourself in the eyes– in the mirror, of course, and forgive yourself for something.

Literally say, “I forgive you for [blank]” to the mirror

In this way your past selves can start to come forward and be heard.

Then, just simply recall those people you used to be and thank them, Journal to them or just imagine yourself as you were then and talk to you in your mind. Allow yourself to feel the things that aren’t always the most comfortable. Because you deserve to be able to truly move forward into the positive future.

My grieving gave me clarity

Once I started getting comfortable with my own grief so many blocks that I didn’t even know I had began to clear. I stopped having so much anxiety because I stopped being so absorbed in the guilt I felt I owed myself. I was able to think more clearly and feel in a way that was authentically me.

I stopped focusing on how I should feel and felt comfortable with actual feelings

Remember: grieving is not a bad thing– and neither are sadness, or anger, or any of the denser emotions. In fact, allowing yourself to feel those emotions in a healthy way is the best way to come home to yourself. Now you’re ready be all that you are and become all that you will be.

These Are the Two Types of Forgiveness You Need to Move on

By | emotional health, empowering, Food for thought, heartbreak, personal essay, relationships

The post break-up period is full of intense emotions, heartache, insecurity, and a continuous loop of memories shared with your ex.

There’s no quick fix to navigating the heartache, but there are skillful ways to deal with the intensity, to avoid becoming trapped in self-pity and regret.

I don’t move on easily; I never have

Heartache comes in waves, often unexpectedly. I’ve held on to relationships for years, or found myself caught in loops of regret, longing, self-criticism. Holding on always comes with small print: what if things were different?

Over the years, though, I’ve learned to let go easier thanks to various tools I use to regulate my emotions and treat myself with increased self-compassion.

I’ve had my fair share of breakups. They’re always unpleasant. But now I handle them slightly better. I’ve moved from complete and utter despair to feels like a healthy way to process a loss. It’s victory, of sorts.

One practice has been my biggest catalyst to moving on: forgiveness

Breakups rarely go smoothly. There’s pain and grief on both sides. To move on, two types of forgiveness are needed: towards our ex and towards ourselves.

Forgiving your ex

Letting go is an overused cliche. Consequently, it runs the risk of losing meaning. To remind myself of what it feels like to let go, I bring awareness to the opposite: what does it feel like to hold on?

Holding on keeps me stuck in the past. Energetic attachments — resentment, anger, craving — prevent me from looking forward. 

These are messy, ugly emotions. Honesty is needed to acknowledge their presence. Only when I saw these energetic attachments did they start to lose their power over me.

The end of one relationship

Relationship A was a tough and intense 18 months. I fell hard and fast, and was lost in the beautiful chaos of it all. The breakdown of the relationship was gut-wrenching; my ex left me in Berlin with two weeks’ notice. We attempted long-distance until, during our anniversary celebration, I discovered she’d used Tinder regularly. Ouch.

Post-breakup, I was holding on to Relationship A through a sense of righteousness. I made myself the victim. I was bitter and resentful. How could she?

Letting go required honest reflection. I explored my bitterness, I befriended it. I cultivated compassion for my ex — I saw her as human: flawed and scared and unsure. 

The more I humanized her, the more empathy developed. As I exercised forgiveness, I felt the energetic shift. With added clarity, it became apparent I was holding on to anger towards myself, too. To heal this, I needed another form of forgiveness.

Forgiveness towards yourself

In Relationship A, I was angry at myself for letting the relationship get the better of me. I was angry about ignoring red flags. I was angry about overextending. I was angry about falling hard and fast and getting lost in the beautiful chaos.

Awareness of this self-directed anger was a huge “Aha!” moment. It opened the door to forgiving myself. A healthy dose of self-compassion was needed. I reminded myself of my human imperfection, of how easy it is to be blinded by love. I tried my best. I wanted to make the relationship work. I did no wrong.

Combined, these two types of forgiveness freed me from the shackles of Relationship A. It was a gradual process; occasionally resentment or anger resurfaced. But eventually it eased. Now, I look back on this relationship with kindness and appreciation. I wish my ex well.

The different balance

To further explain, I present Relationship B. This came before Relationship A, but letting go was more difficult because the process of forgiveness was different. To crudely place percentages on a topic that cannot be quantified:

  • Relationship A — 80 percent forgiveness towards my ex, 20 percent forgiveness towards myself. 
  • Relationship B —  10 percent forgiveness towards my ex, 90 percent forgiveness towards myself.

Relationship B came at a time of great instability. It was a grounding, nurturing relationship while I was anything but.

Throughout our three years together, I broke things off numerous times and broke her heart. The relationship ended when I left the UK and moved to Berlin. The irony of this coincidence is not lost on me, though my ego wants to point out that I gave a few years’ notice.

To move on from this relationship I had to direct much more attention, at the regret and anger I had towards myself. I felt I’d let her down, that my emotional instability was a form of weakness. Yet I was going through a personal crisis.

Forgiveness here meant being compassionate toward my 22-year-old sekf. I reminded myself I did the best I could, with the tools and coping mechanisms I had at the time.

Forgiveness isn’t always rational

You may be wondering where the 10 percent of forgiveness towards my ex comes from. I needed to forgive my ex… for moving on. As silly as this sounds, such was the dynamic, such was her level of support and forgiveness towards me, that I’d subconsciously developed a sense of entitlement towards her love (I told you breakups were messy).

Forgiveness isn’t always rational. My angst at my ex moving on was not rational — of course she was going to live her life. But I still needed to follow the process.

Forgiveness allowed me to acknowledge the way I was feeling. And, on a cognitive level, I was able to see how my entitlement wasn’t rational.

Ultimately, forgiveness is a gift to ourselves and our ex partners.

It allows us to open our hearts, to experience appreciation for what once was, and to release attachments to how things could’ve been. Most importantly, it allows us to truly move on, to let go of memories of what-once-was, return to the present, and enter future relationships with clarity.

And if what if we fall into similar traps in future relationships? Then we forgive again.