Winning At All Costs

winningMy son was somewhat perplexed following his volleyball games against another school yesterday and questioned his coach afterwards about some of his decisions.  My son was disappointed that, although his team played well, the other team won more games because they bent the rules and were encouraged to take advantage of our weakest player.  He thought the weaker player should have been subbed out for a stronger player.  Our coach explained that he was all about playing by the rules, teaching good sportsmanship, and being fair about rotating the players so that they get the experience to improve and build their confidence, especially at the modified level when the kids are learning the sport.  He also explained that at the JV level, what the other team’s players were doing incorrectly will get called every time, and those kids will look foolish and will have to relearn how to play correctly, whereas our team will not.

I told my son as I emphasized all the positives that I was more proud of him for playing by the rules, being a good sport, and playing with the right technique than I would have been if they won because they had bent the rules or played underhandedly.  I know it isn’t sitting well with him that the other team got away with playing the way they did, but it bothers me that he seems to be focused on the fact that his team didn’t win.

The whole thing makes me think of that whole mentality which some people have that it shouldn’t matter how you get the outcome you desire as long as you get it, even if you have to be deceitful, manipulative, bend or ignore the rules, or hurt people in the process.  Sports are one thing, but everyday life is another.   Continue reading

Patterns of Behavior

A person’s true colors are apparent by the patterns of behavior they establish.  These can be patterns of positive or negative behaviors.  Unfortunately, we sometimes focus more on the patterns of negative behaviors that people establish for themselves.  How many people do you know that when you think of them, you think about how they are always complaining about something or how they are always late everywhere they go. Or maybe they tend to interrupt others a lot or are deceitful or dishonest.  Perhaps they put their own needs first the majority of the time or they are quick to judge others.  The list goes on and on.

You might know other people who bring to mind positive patterns of behavior like being a good listener, always helping others out, always having a positive attitude, and always giving others the benefit of the doubt.  Or perhaps they are silly and fun a good part of the time.  There are plenty of other qualities I could list here.  People with these attributes usually have numerous friends and family members who look forward to spending time with them, and it is easy to overlook certain things about them that are not so positive such as being a little forgetful or not so great at replying to emails. If they occasionally exhibit a behavior that is unbecoming or they make a poor decision, it is easy to forgive them because it only happens once in a while and probably has a reasonable explanation.

No one is perfect, but it is much more difficult to overlook negative behaviors and poor decisions for people who exhibit patterns of negative behaviors on a regular basis. It becomes easier and easier to keep lumping everything together and form an overall negative impression of that person, to question the person’s intentions, to not give them the benefit of the doubt, to start looking for negative behaviors where there aren’t any, and to want to distance yourself from them.  Not only is this true in relationships on general, but it appears to be very evident in this election on both sides.  The hatred for both candidates is palpable, and neither one of them does themselves any favors by some of the choices they have made or the way in which they behave on a regular basis.

I find it interesting that people who tend to behave negatively themselves tend to look for and point out negative behaviors in others, are quick to deflect the attention off of themselves by drawing attention to the negativity of others, and will even accuse others of doing the very things they themselves do on a regular basis.  It’s like they don’t see the connection between the two, or perhaps they are unwilling to see or acknowledge that they do the same things, so there are double standards. They are usually quick to play the victim too.

We all have a choice every day as to how we go about our lives. We can have a positive influence on those around us and try to establish positive patterns of behavior such as being respectful, trustworthy, honest, helpful, giving, open-minded, and make decisions based on values and integrity.  Or we can behave in a way that establishes negative patterns of behavior and negatively impact those around us, which makes it very difficult for anyone else to give us the benefit of the doubt or a chance to redeem ourselves.  Which will you choose?

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Boundaries

Everyone has his or her own idea of what boundaries are acceptable.  It’s when there is a big difference in what is acceptable to different people that problems arise.  I am talking about boundaries related to personal space, privacy, topics that are appropriate to discuss, and things of that nature.

For example, I’m certainly not one to snoop through other family members’ belongings or things like their computer history, with the one exception of when it is necessary to keep tabs on my kids.  Even then, I don’t exercise that right all that often.  I like to respect people’s privacy and personal space because I would like that in return, not that I have anything to hide.  Unfortunately, I have not gotten that in return.  I know there are plenty of people who think it’s their right to go through their significant other’s phone, computer, and other belongings whenever they feel like it, even if there is no reason to be suspicious of any wrongdoing.  It’s just their right.  I don’t agree with that.

Even though my soon-to-be ex-husband hasn’t lived in the house for a while now, he still thinks it’s perfectly fine to just walk right in as if he still lives here.  He thinks that just because we can get along and work together with regards to the kids, that means he’s welcome to do that.  Getting along and invading personal space are two different things.

Boundaries really boil down to respect and trust, so if someone doesn’t respect your boundaries even if they disagree with them, then they really don’t respect you.  I think that’s one thing that differentiates “takers” is that they tend to not respect boundaries and feel like they have a right to do whatever they want whenever they want.  It’s up to the “givers” to set and enforce the boundaries.

This can be difficult though when you are dealing with someone who not only doesn’t respect boundaries but also reacts very negatively when it is brought to his or her attention.  In my opinion, how adults react to boundaries or view them in the first place has a lot to do with whether or not boundaries were set for them as they were children and how well their parents did at maintaining that.  Obviously, kids are going to push boundaries and test limits.  It’s a part of becoming an individual separate from your parents.  I’m all for pushing boundaries when they are along the lines of accomplishing something that has never been done before and things like that, but when kids push boundaries that have to do with curfews, acceptable behavior, responsibilities, personal space, and so on, I think it’s a parent’s responsibility to remind them that there are boundaries and consequences for not adhering to them.  And we need to teach them that there can’t be any double standards when it comes to boundaries.  If they don’t want a sibling going into their room to borrow a book, then they can’t go borrow one from their room whenever they feel like it.

The bottom line is that it’s perfectly healthy and necessary to set boundaries and expect others to adhere to them.  We just need to understand that it might be necessary to make it clear what the boundaries are because not everyone’s are the same.  If we don’t make it clear, then we may not have a right to be upset if we are assuming the other person understands our boundaries when perhaps that is not the case.  We also need to be respectful of others’ boundaries, even if they are different than ours because if we violate them, it will most likely be interpreted as lack of respect.  If there is a question as to what the boundaries are, it is better to err on the side of caution and not make assumptions.  The more conscious we can be about boundaries, whether it’s from a parenting perspective or the perspective of interacting with others, the better off we’ll all be.

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Removing The Toxins

subtract neg:add pos

Have you ever thought about whether you have toxic people in your circle of friends and family and how much value they are adding to your life?  Or perhaps it’s your significant other who may be toxic.  It’s not the most positive thing to think about by any stretch of the imagination.  It’s also not the easiest thing to admit that a toxic person has been in your life longer than they should have.  Some people are clearly toxic and we can come to that conclusion without much thought.  Other people may be a little more difficult to put in that category, especially if we have known them a long time or if there have been a lot of positive aspects of the relationship which have resulted in us being willing to overlook all of the toxic behaviors.

The degree to which someone can be toxic can vary greatly, ranging from people who easily get under out skin because they are so annoying, hurtful, disrespectful, or any number of other things, to people who just tend to weigh us down because they always have their own drama that they pull us into easily.  These people may have many other redeeming qualities, so we put up with the drama.  But sometimes it just gets to be too much, especially when this person may not realize or be willing to admit how much they contribute to the drama.

I am trying to focus on the positives in my life and making more positive changes.  It’s refreshing being around other people who have the same attitude and focus.  On the flip side, it is mentally draining being around people who are very critical and judgmental, who push people’s buttons but then are surprised at a negative reaction, who blame everyone else but themselves for everything and are always the victim, who are always looking for others to back them up in blaming others, who aren’t accountable for their own actions, who focus on the negatives, who tend to put their own needs first and like to be the center of attention, who tend to take more than they give, who always need to be right and in control, and who are not open to any kind of constructive criticism.

Just as toxins that come from processed foods, sugars, chemicals, air pollution, and so many other things are not good for our overall physical health, toxic people are not good for our mental health.  Sometimes we need to take a step back, evaluate the situation, and ask ourselves if it is really worth it to keep putting up with the negative behaviors.  In some cases, or for a while, the answer may be yes.  But when the answer is or becomes no, then we need to have the courage to let go of that person, even though it may be difficult at first.  It may feel like a big weight off of our shoulders right away, or it could take a while to realize that we made the right decision.  As much as some of us tend to put others’ needs above our own and want to be there for everyone who needs a shoulder to lean on, sometimes we need to think of our own well-being.  I recently saw a meme that says, “Don’t be afraid to rock the boat.  If someone falls out, then they weren’t meant to be in your boat.”  This is so true.

Part of eliminating the toxins has to come from ourselves though too.  It’s important to self-reflect and ask ourselves if we are too critical or judgmental, if we are better talkers than listeners, if we tend to look for things to complain about, if we tend to blame others rather than take ownership of our mistakes or whatever we might have done to contribute to a negative situation, and so on.  It’s never to late to start making improvements in these areas, which will not only be good for those around us, but will help us feel better too.

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Holding Grudges

grudges

The topic of grudges has been on my mind lately because I recently had a friend admit that she was upset about something that I DIDN’T say (or didn’t say enough) to her last year.  This came out in relation to something she was upset about recently, and it became apparent that she has been holding a grudge about last year and exhibiting passive aggressive behavior towards me in the meantime.  And then when she finally did express her frustration, she didn’t hesitate to include some insults and other very hurtful things.  I would have preferred that she said something a year ago instead, rather than let it affect how she has treated me since then.

Ironically, she is generally pretty quick to tell other people if there is something they have done or said that bothers her.  That’s the other extreme, where we don’t hesitate to point out every little thing.  But that can be difficult NOT to do with the people who continue to repeat the same patterns of behavior that irritate us or hurt our feelings. It’s hard to resist the urge when it happens so frequently.  I can relate to both of the situations, as I too have people in my life who are repeat offenders with plenty of negative behaviors, but I have also hesitated to tell her things that she has done in the past that I didn’t like.  I was willing to overlook the negatives with her because the positives outweighed them.

I understand that it’s difficult to tell people we care about that they have hurt our feelings or disappointed us somehow, especially if we don’t think they are going to react very well.  Or perhaps it’s a matter of not wanting to upset the fruit basket, so to speak.  Unfortunately, when we don’t speak up, things fester, and little things become bigger than they should.  And when we finally have the courage to say something, it often doesn’t come out in the most constructive way. Once my buttons were pushed, it wasn’t difficult to let her know about the negatives I was no longer willing to overlook, just as she was not hesitant to say hurtful things to me.

Neither complaining frequently nor choosing to not say something at all are necessarily the best way to go about dealing with frustration or hurt feelings. Listening to someone complain all the time gets very old and can be mentally draining at times. Yet, holding onto negative feelings for a long time can be just as toxic.  Both can tip the scale so that it seems like there are more negatives than positives in whatever type of relationship.  Somewhere in the middle is probably the best approach where we pick our battles, so to speak, and find a way to constructively point out the things that bother us the most and try to let go of the less significant things. Otherwise, we run the risk of having to decide if we are willing to let go of the friendship or relationship that has become toxic instead.

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Agreeing To Disagree

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Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like more people are having a harder time dealing with other people who disagree with them than ever before.  People are increasingly set in their ways, unwilling to listen to anyone else’s opinion, and more easily offended by anyone who doesn’t share their opinion.

I’ve experienced this both personally with people I know about everyday life situations, and I see it in social media, in the news, and particularly with this presidential race.  I’ve touched on this topic before in a post called “Being Open-Minded” where I talk about not being judgmental, giving people the benefit of the doubt, and not being so set in our ways and how we view the world around us.  It is very difficult to communicate with people who are judgmental, who don’t give people the benefit of the doubt, and who get upset if someone doesn’t view something the same way they do.  Everything has to be worded so carefully and said just at the right time or it’s likely to evoke a negative response.  And it’s frustrating having my intentions questioned when all I am doing is trying to help.  Both can be very mentally draining at times.

People should be allowed to express their opinions as long as it is not being done in a way that is threatening or harmful.  I’m all for being respectful of others and feeling safe in my environment, but it seems to me that some people are so easily threatened or offended by anyone who doesn’t think the exact same way they do.   Continue reading

Being The Victim

Unfortunately, I have a number of people in my life who like to see things as if they are the innocent victims in any given situation, and everyone around them is to blame for everything that is wrong in their lives.  I can appear to be like that too sometimes, but I do realize my part in certain situations and am willing to admit it and try to make changes where necessary.  Just because I may be vocal in trying to discuss how others in my immediate family can and should behave and react to things differently doesn’t mean I think that everything is all their fault all the time.  I am just doing my job as a parent (and spouse) to help them be the best person they can be, especially considering how many bad examples are all around them of how NOT to be a good person.  It makes my job MUCH more difficult.

All too often I get blamed though for things that I shouldn’t, which is very frustrating. Trying to enforce a regular bedtime for my preteen, asking the kids to pick up their belongings that they leave around the house, and suggesting that they get some homework done before dinner so they are not leaving it all until later in the evening does not make me a “control freak.”  It makes me a good parent because I am doing my job trying to teach them how to be responsible, take care of their bodies, and learn time management.  That is NOT unreasonable.  I am also not mean or a “horrible person” because I choose to sometimes give consequences for things like very inappropriate behavior.  Again, I am doing my job as a parent. That’s all.  But it is often not seen that way, even to other adults, including my spouse.

My concern though is also how many adults still operate as if they are never at fault for anything, can’t take ownership of their mistakes or their behavior and attitudes, and who don’t understand that they have the power to change how they do things, how they treat people, and/or the decisions they make.  The saying, “If you always do what you have always done, then you will always get what you have always gotten” comes to mind.  We all have the power to be kinder, more tolerant and patient, more understanding and open minded, more respectful and accountable, improve our communication skills, and so many other things.  We can’t just be takers and never give back to the people who mean the most to us.  We all have to pull our weight, which includes self-reflection to see what we do to contribute to any given problem and what we can do to be part of the solution.

Seeing ourselves as victims of everyone else’s negativity is the easiest way to interpret our surroundings.  In some cases it is more applicable, but it seems to me that it is a whole lot less likely than most people would care to admit.  While figuring out who might be to blame in certain circumstances does have some value, we can’t look to ONLY blame others for all the negativity in our lives and the world around us.  We need to examine our own attitudes, behavior, decisions, prejudices, filters, previous experiences, anxieties, intolerances, and insecurities and figure out how they factor in as well and then figure out if there is anything we can do to help improve the situation.

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