When I work with patients, I always ask them whether they’re doing their life’s work, because I truly believe that how we spend most of our day, and whether it’s in line with our life’s work, affects our health. When I ask a woman if she’s doing her life’s work, way too often, she stares at me blankly.
So how can you tell? How do you know if you’re doing your life’s work? There’s no easy answer to that question other than “You just know.” But to give you a sense of what it feels like to discover and then commit to fulfilling your life’s work. I’ve created this list of signs for you.
The phrase “seeing the world through rose-colored glasses” is pretty common, but in case you haven’t heard it before, it means having a positive outlook on life.
Do you know how to use your proverbial rose-colored glasses?
How do you see the world around you? Do you see beauty, love, and happiness all around you, or do you find that the world is less than appealing to you? Do the negatives outweigh the positives for you?
Fact: finding beauty around you, in your every day life, makes for a happier and more self-confident you.
It’s true–and I can personally vouch for it.
For example, I posted this photo on Instagram during a recent snowstorm. Such a simple and every day sight to behold–but breathtaking at the same time. You just have to slow down and LOOK.
Bliss Mission: Find Beauty All Around You
Today, I challenge you to find beauty all around you in the world.
Find it in the faces of your children or friends, find it in your own back yard or at a local park. Look for beauty in even the most trying times. If you find yourself in traffic, notice the camaraderie you feel with your fellow travelers. Notice the scenery around you, the color of the sky. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, find beauty and be grateful.
I promise you that adopting this habit can only help to increase the joy in your life, and is one more step on your journey to personal bliss. What do you think?
Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy.
As Joko Beck, an American Buddhist nun, writes in Everyday Zen:
So a relationship is a great gift, not because it makes us happy—it often doesn’t—but because any intimate relationship, if we view it as practice, is the clearest mirror we can find.
I don’t spend much time looking in a mirror these days. Like many women, I’m sometimes unhappy with what I see—the signs of sun damage, for example. And my neck—let’s just say that when Nora Ephron entitled a book, “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” I knew exactly what she meant.
Fortunately, I’m pretty adept at looking at what I do like, and there’s plenty there, like a warm smile and a strong body with lots of energy to do the work I love. But looking in a mirror also reminds me to take better care of myself, especially to be more diligent about applying sunscreen.
All relationships are mirrors
In a similar vein, if I think of a relationship as a mirror, and I don’t like what I see, I think it’s a great opportunity to be more diligent about applying self-love. In particular, it’s an opportunity to take responsibility for my own feelings.
One of the least true phrases in English is, “You made me feel (insert bad feeling here).” We say it so often because we think that something someone said or did (or didn’t say or didn’t do) makes us feel a certain way.
But what if we decided to tweak our thoughts, so that instead of thinking, “That made me feel bad.” we think, “That helped me feel bad,” and “That thing”—whether it’s a natural disaster or a domestic downturn—“helped me feel vulnerable or unworthy of love”?
Thinking about it in that way qualifies as self-love because it opens our hearts and minds to the possibility that we can act to make things better.
Open your mind and your heart
For example, one of my clients had a conflict with her partner this week: after it was over, she bemoaned the fact that she acted badly. She sent her boyfriend contrite texts and quickly became distraught when he didn’t respond. It was only much later, after they had resolved their conflict, I suggested that she ask for his help in the future.
She could say, “When we have a conflict in the future, it would help me if we took a break as soon as we notice we’re getting stuck. When I feel better, I’ll send you a text and it would help me if you let me know you got my message shortly after I leave it. You don’t have to respond with anything more than that. I respect your need for time to process your feelings. I’ll look forward to talking with you when you are ready.”
You are responsible for making it right
Thinking about things in that way puts the responsibility squarely on us to make it right. We figure out what we can do to help the situation —and there is always something we can do. And we can ask others for what they can do to help us.
We can apologize and make amends if we transgress. We can remind ourselves that we are learning and growing, and we are going to make mistakes along the way. We can remind ourselves that we are worthy of love and acceptance no matter what.res
And so in the mirror that is our relationships, we are often presented with the image of ourselves as vulnerable, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
As in everything else, we have a choice: we can always shift our focus, see something different, and put everything together into a different story.
And once we do that, we will look in the mirror and begin to see someone vulnerable and strong, someone capable of learning from our frailty and making our relationships everything they can be
Is there any greater gift we can give ourselves, or the people around us?
While it’s true that I care more about women making peace with their bodies than most people, and although I live my life committed to supporting women in liking who and what they see when they look in the mirror, I was one of the first in line to see Sex & The City II when it came out a few years ago.
Seems so shallow to admit that. Let’s face it ladies, as much as many of us love these four characters, they are not exactly representational of most women today – many of whom are struggling to take care of their children while working full time. But while Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda do not represent most women, they do represent something that makes my heart just sing. I fell in love with the characters from the get-go. I literally cried my way through the last episode of the series, and have watched every episode a few times each. The pretend world they occupy feels and looks so glamorous, and I love how they strut around exuding power in a way that feels sincere and effortless.
While I do like to look nice, I am not a shopper and I am not someone who goes crazy about fashion. But whenever I am trying on clothes, I make believe I am Carrie – my favorite character on the show. I am nothing like her, and yet she is my alter ego. I just love how she walks around NYC in her high heels and cool clothes.
My own “Carrie” moment
So yesterday, I am in Banana Republic and I put myself into Carrie mode. I see this pair of heels that are so fun, so cool, and so not me, and yet I had this feeling come over me, and suddenly I HAD TO HAVE THEM! I did not care what they cost, how high they were, how much they hurt – I just had to have them.
I wear a size 10 wide, and it is difficult to find shoes in my size. However, the store had a 10, and on my feet they went. They were too tight and so not right. I said to Michael, the gay guy helping me, “These shoes are so tight, but I want to be like Carrie.”
Michael cracked up. Then he looked at me very seriously and said, “Honey, beauty is painful.”
I said, “You are so right, and it is so unfair.”
Of course I got them. After all, they were on sale.
Does it have to hurt?
I care more about our insides than about how we look. I care about how we talk to ourselves every day, and I want to live in a world where we are less critical and more self-loving. I care more than anything about the obesity epidemic that plagues us, and I care about the fact that we are seduced by the beauty industry. I care that models starve themselves and that “beauty is painful.” Women – myself included – do all kinds of whacky things to make themselves look good at the expense of their health and their soul.
I am passionately committed to these causes. I so want to live in a world where beauty is no longer cruel. But I also have an inner Carrie who, in a perfect world, can still have sexy black high heels. It’s one of those great paradoxes that makes me who I am. I own both parts, and know they’re right. (I just wish the Carrie side didn’t have to hurt!)
What about you? Are you willing to suffer for beauty? Have you suffered long enough? Where along the continuum from inner beauty to outer glamor do you spend most of your time?