This was first published on KSL.COM
I have had the great privilege of writing close to 550 LIFEadvice articles over the past 11 years, but this will be the last in the Coach Kim series for KSL.com.
Most of the questions that have been submitted over the years have been about people problems or improving relationships. The following are my last and most important suggestions for understanding each other better and improving our relationships. I hope they help you.
Human behavior is all about seeking safety
You may think human behavior is complicated, but it is actually pretty simple. Most of our behavior, if you take the time to look, can be traced back to a desire for safety and security. Everything we do is driven by either our value system and what we love or by what we fear.
Unfortunately, a lot of our behavior is about fear. We buy new clothes because looking better makes us feel safer and helps us believe we are "good enough." We work hard at our job to gain security. We fight with our spouses because we don't feel safe and are trying to remedy that.
Human beings are constantly seeking safety from two simple foundational fears: the fear of failure and the fear of loss. I have written about these two fears extensively because they are key in our understanding of human behavior.
When you understand how fear of failure and fear of loss affect you, you will start to see yourself and the people around you — especially when they are behaving badly — as scared. People are not jerks, show-offs, gossips, aggressive or territorial; they are just scared human beings whose fear is bringing out their worst behavior.
Seeing human behavior this way will make you more compassionate toward the people around you, and that will improve your relationships.
We look for safety in all the wrong places
Human beings seek safety in the wrong places because we erroneously believe our value must be earned. We believe human value can change day to day, and that some people have more value than other people. We all erroneously believe our value comes from these five places:
The problem is no matter how hard you try to perform, look good, buy nice things or win approval from others, you will always find people out there who still appear to be better than you. This chase to find value will always leave you feeling like you aren't good enough and you still won't feel safe.
You must understand an important truth: You cannot find a sense of safety outside of yourself. A real sense of safety can only come from changing your foundational beliefs and believing that your value is intrinsic and unchangeable. If your value is infinite, you cannot fail nor be "not enough."
See all humans as having the same intrinsic value
Nothing will improve your relationships and your self-esteem faster than choosing to see all humans as having the same value as you. Choose to see life as a classroom, not a test. See it as a safe place where you don't have to earn your value. See it as a place of learning where the universe brings perfect lessons and your value is never in question.
This one change will take half the fear that drives your worst behavior off the table immediately. You will feel safe and good enough in the world and will find it easier to show up with love for the people around you. Changing this belief will require effort, though. You must constantly remind yourself that nothing changes or diminishes your value and that you always have the same value as everyone else.
Forgive everyone and everything
I have written 20 articles and one whole book on forgiveness because I believe it is the most important lesson we are here to learn. If we can't forgive other people, life, God, or ourselves, we will be miserable and scared our whole life.
The way out of this suffering lies in choosing to trust that everything that happens is your perfect classroom journey. Instead of resisting what is, we can choose to trust the universe knows what it's doing. We can see life as a wise teacher who is co-creating with us, bringing us the perfect classroom journey we need in each moment. This mindset creates strength, resiliency and a real sense of security. When you choose to trust the universe, you will also find forgiveness is much easier.
Forgiving others is the key to loving yourself
Every time you judge another person for their mistakes, you are giving power to the idea that value must be earned and people can be "not good enough." If you feed this belief, it will also drive the way you see yourself. If you see others as not good enough or not worthy, you will always see yourself the same way.
The key to loving yourself lies in choosing to love and forgive others. You must allow every human around you to be flawed, make mistakes and have faults, and still have infinite and unchanging worth. When you give every other human infinite value, you will start to accept it for yourself too.
The people you dislike can be the most important teachers in your life. They show you the limits of your love and help you to stretch. If you will work on loving these people as they are, with their faults, it will improve your self-worth and bring a feeling of safety to your life. I promise this works.
See everything that happens as your perfect classroom journey
Choose to believe the classroom of life has one main purpose: to grow you and make you more loving. Every experience in your life is here to stretch your ability to love God, yourself or other people. Every experience that shows up in your life is here to serve you.
Every time something happens, ask yourself this powerful question: "What is this experience here for? Is it here to help me trust God more, help me love myself more, or to love other people at a higher level? There is always one of these three lessons in play.
If you choose to see your life this way, you will experience real gratitude for everything that happens — the good and the bad — and this will make you feel safer in the world. If you want to have more access to your love, just choose to see the universe as on your side and constantly conspiring to serve you. This will make you feel safe and give you the bandwidth to show up for others.
Seek out professional help with your mindset
Having healthy beliefs, healthy thinking skills and tools for processing life is what ultimately creates happiness, success and good relationships. The problem is they don't teach these things in school. So, unless your parents taught them to you, you likely don't have the skills and tools you need to create healthy relationships. You are going to need to seek them out on your own.
Find a professional whose job it is to teach these skills, like a therapist or a life coach. This kind of help makes the work faster and easier. Getting professional help with your mindset, limiting beliefs, negative thinking and people skills is the most important and advantageous thing you could do for yourself and your family. Spend the money and invest in your mental health. It will be the best money you ever spend.
You can do this
For 11 years, I have ended every article with the phrase "you can do this." I did so because I want you to know that you have all the answers inside you. You are innately loving and good. You are meant to grow and learn through whatever is happening to you because that is the purpose of everything. You are, at your core, nothing but love. You were made by love, through love and as love. You are good enough as you are right now. You are right on track in your perfect classroom journey. You have nothing to fear.
You can improve and change things in your life, too. If you don't like the way your life is going, you can change it. You have the power to do this, you might just need a little help. Seek out the help and invest in yourself and your life.
I have loved writing for KSL and I deeply appreciate all the letters you have sent me over the years. I hope my articles have helped you in some way because they have sure helped me. If you want to continue to follow me, you can do that at coachkimgiles.com and claritypointcoaching.com.
Thank you to all my readers for your encouragement, appreciation and feedback!
Every year I hear from readers who are dreading the holidays, because it means dealing with their difficult relatives on a level they can avoid the rest of the year. Why is it so uncomfortable, threatening, and miserable dealing with these human beings you're related to? How has Covid made this even worse?
It is important you understand one critical thing about human behavior, we are all programmed toward one subconscious, evolutionary goal, to look for threats and protect ourselves.
Neuroscience experts say, from an evolutionary perspective, [our] ultimate goal is reproductive fitness. This means we have a subconscious tendency toward things like resource acquisition, self-protection, disease avoidance, social affiliation, status, and mate acquisition and retention.
In simple language, you are a walking, talking threat protection system, at work 12/7 to protect and defend yourself.
Experts say "this protection system is highly sensitive to fluctuating circumstances, and is more likely to be engaged when environmental cues signal that [you] are more susceptible to a threat." The Covid pandemic has done this to you. It has increased the perceived threat level that other human beings pose.
For two years, you have been told to stay six feet away, avoid contact, and protect yourself by wearing a mask, which puts a wall between you and others. You are more threatened by other people than you ever were before, and this could be negatively affecting your relationships.
In my opinion, Covid is making you more likely to get offended, feel more protective (selfish) and react more defensively. Add to this the current political divide and all the other divisive issues in play online, and you have a recipe for judgment, intolerance, defensiveness, division, and a lack of compassion and forgiveness. Do you find it harder to forgive others the last two years? Are you holding more grudges?
Covid is also making you more sensitive to loss or feeling taken from. If I asked you to make a list of everything you have lost the last two years (including quality of life, financially, and emotionally) it would probably be a long one. The loss you have experienced is subconsciously putting you on guard to watch for other losses. This means you might be feeling more protective of yourself than you ever have before. Are you more sensitive to mistreatment or more easily bothered by other people's behavior? You might be functioning in a fear of loss state, which is making you more protective than ever and this could negatively affect your family gatherings this year.
Evolutionary psychology also tell us that when we function in a fear state our emotions will drive our behavior more than our logic will. When you are functioning in stress (a fight or flight state) your frontal lobe actually shuts down, which means you are less logical, more emotional, and more defensive.
Take a minute and ask yourself, am I reacting to people with more defensiveness than I did two years ago? Am I quicker to be protective or get offended? Do I find fault, gossip, or talk about the flaws in other people more than usual?
If you can see a pattern of fear driven feelings and behavior in yourself, here are some things you can do to calm your protective tendencies and make your holiday more peaceful:
Remember that ultimately what other people think or say about you doesn't mean anything.
It doesn't diminish your value and it doesn't have meaning or power, unless you believe it does. You can be completely bullet proof if you just see yourself that way. Choose to see all humans as divine, amazing, scared, struggling students in the classroom of life, just like you. When they behave badly, choose to forgive it, because most of the time they don't intend to harm you. They are just functioning in fear.
Don't take anything personally
Everything other people do and say, is driven by their fears for and about themselves. It is never about you. As a matter of fact, all behavior is just a request for love and a sign that the person doesn't love themselves. It a relative says something offensive this year, let it bounce off and hit the floor. Don't let anything stick and whatever you do, don't pick it up and stab yourself with it later. You are in control of how much other people can hurt you.
The way you judge and value others, is the way you will judge and value yourself.
If you fault find and judge the mistakes or flaws in other people as making them less valuable, you will subconsciously see your own flaws as making you less valuable too. You can only love and accept yourself to the degree you love and accept your neighbors. Work on seeing their value as the same as yours, their mistakes and flaws as their perfect classroom and find love for them in spite of their negative qualities and you will find a new level of love for yourself too.
You aren't responsible for other people's happiness.
You are only responsible for your own choices, thoughts, words, and deeds. These are the only things in your control. Allow the universe to be in charge of other people and their behavior. The universe has their perfect classroom well in hand and doesn't need you to stress about it. Let go of feeling responsible for even the people you love. Focus all your attention on choosing your own positive feelings and behaviors, and allow others to be in their perfect classroom journey no matter what they are experiencing.
See whatever happens as your perfect classroom
This means you choose to see everything that happens as here to serve you. You choose to see everything that happens it a blessing in disguise to help you grow and become stronger, wiser or more loving. This means even when others say offensive things, gossip or judge you, it is nothing more than a chance to practice choosing to see yourself as bulletproof.
Be the question asker and give compliments
Instead of dreading the relative's questions, take the initiative and be the question asker at the party. Spend the whole time asking each person questions about themselves and their lives. This means you don't have to talk about yourself and your life at all, which is safer. It also means showing you care and are interested in knowing about and understanding others. Look for ways to compliment and validate others in the room. This creates an atmosphere of building people up instead of tearing them down.
Be the love in the room
Focus all your attention on making others feel important and valued. You cannot do both love and fear at the same time. If you are laser focused on giving love, you won't have the bandwidth to worry about yourself. Spend every minute of the party making others feel comfortable and accepted and your fears will go to the back burner.
Avoid controversial topics
I have a friend who puts a list on the front door of all the topics that are against the rules to bring up at her family gatherings. Politics, religion, vaccination, and the new Covid variant top her list. This takes all the hot topics off the table before the party even starts. Consider having a jar filled with safe "get to know you questions" that driven understanding, compassion, and love instead.
You can use Covid as your excuse to bow out of anything
If you don't think you can handle the family gathering and stay balanced, it's okay to bow out. You have the perfect excuse this year. Just say you might be feeling sick. But, this doesn't excuse you from the work of learning to love each person and yourself at a higher level. This should still be your goal, but if you need more time before stepping into the hot zone, it's okay to practice loving them from afar this year.
Even though you are subconsciously programmed to look for threats and protect yourself, you are also deeply programmed to love. I believe your love is really who you are. Focus this holiday season on being love and making others feel safer everywhere you go.
Notice that whenever human being face calamity, natural disasters, or tragedy, there is an equal upswing of love that follows. Hard times can bring us closer together and increase our capacity for love and understanding or they can bring out the worst.
You have the power to decide what is increased in you this year, more fear or more love. Will you become more defensive or more compassionate? Instead of letting your subconscious decide your response, consciously choose. Decide to make the pandemic increase your compassion and forgiveness this year. You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.