“I should have learned this by now, I’m 50 years old.” If I had a dollar for every time I have heard this from clients and others I’ve coached / trained, my piggy bank would be very full.
Many of us have this notion that by a certain age, we should have learned some important life skills, like self awareness, managing our angry feelings, actively listening, using our filter before we blurt things out, and how to be a generally (psychologically) safe person.
Sadly, these are not skills that come naturally for everyone. Additionally, if we grew up in a family where people did not listen well, blurted things out constantly, yelled, blamed or threw things, then we likely did not learn how to manage our “big feelings” well either.
Age has little to do with it. Family of origin conditioning as well as the health of various parts of our brain, have a lot to do with how well we self manage and therefore how well we do relationally.
As a counselor and brain health coach, I have witnessed clients who are 13 who self manage better than some of my 50 or 60 something clients. If you think about it, the older clients have had more time to “practice” the unhelpful behaviors longer.
The good news, is that it is never too late to learn a thing or two that can allow you to learn tools and skills to self regulate ( think self control) better than you have, as well as interpersonal skills that can greatly enhance how you show up relationally.
My oldest client was in her 80’s proving that you can learn self management, better communication, how to set boundaries, or whatever it is you need to learn, at any age.
I like to say, if you have breath and a pulse and a desire to improve and work on yourself to be a better person- if you truly want to be that person that others can count on in the ways that you consistently show up to be a safe person, we encourage you to reach out to a competent and caring professional counselor, life coach or therapist who can assist you in learning the skills needed to manage yourself most effectively.
In the meanwhile, here’s a short list of ideas to consider adding to your day to help you retrain your brain so that you can improve your own physical, emotional and mental health, and how others experience you.
1. LET DEEP BREATHING BE YOUR DAILY FRIEND. Sadly, too many people are walking around carrying an intense stress load daily. When we are chronically stressed we often show up irritable with friends, family, our partners and kids. Stop to pause and deep breathe daily. It can serve to help your brain and nervous system feel more calm.
2. PAUSE AND CONSIDER WHAT YOU HAVE TO BE GRATEFUL FOR OFTEN. Practicing gratitude is a game changer. It helps us take the focus off of looking for what is wrong, and shifts our ability to see what is right. When we stop to pause and consider what is going well, it resets our mindset. We become more positive and pleasant to be around.
3. ASK YOURSELF IF YOUR YES MEANS YES. Are your words and actions congruent? Do you do what you say you will do when you say you will do it? This is what builds trust, i.e., what is needed for others to experience you as a trustworthy person. Be the person others can count on.
4. TAKE OWNERSHIP WHEN IT IS YOURS TO OWN. Did you make a mistake? Own it. Did you inadvertently blurt something out that would have been best not to share? Own it. Real apologies are swift and said without explanation. Were you irritable? Own it. Additionally, if you have a need, desire, or something else you want to discuss with a friend, partner, coworker, client, be sure to own that too.
5. BE CURIOUS ABOUT YOURSELF. Most people are often unaware of how their growing up years are still affecting them in their adult life. If you endured trauma or had other unpleasant events in your life, if you have not identified or gotten help for those childhood wounds, then it is likely you are still acting from them.
Given that virtually no one grows up in a perfect home with perfect parents, siblings and extended family, nearly everyone you meet is carrying some kind of burden. Additionally, some people have parts of their brain that are either over or under functioning, which contributes to further make relationships more difficult.
Focusing on your mental / emotional health and wellbeing is one of the greatest gifts you give to yourself and all those who come in contact with you. Make learning more about you a priority. The more curious and open you are, generally the better your mental health journey will be.
Lastly, if you are unsure how your behavior affects those closest to you, you can find out by asking a simple question. “How do you experience me most often?” I encourage spouses, partners, parents and business owners, leaders and managers to be asking this question both at home and in the workplace.
If you have generally been a psychologically safe person, then people will likely tell you.
(Your job will be to listen without interruption or defensiveness.)
If you get answers like “fine” or “ok”, you may want to make that call to a counselor, coach or therapist today.