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Let me tell you about a New Year’s resolution from 1994 that I’ve managed (mostly) to keep.

Late in December 1993, I was getting my new 1994 weekly calendar ready: writing in appointments, project deadlines, and birthdays, thinking about the year ahead, musing on what I wanted to do differently. I came to the realization I often wasted a tremendous amount of time and energy being really unhappy about many things that were usually out of my control, and honestly, not that important.

I thought all the countless hours wasted in useless negativity, year after year…
… obsessing about the unkind remarks and unfair actions from others.
… feeling terribly embarrassed and upset with myself after making even trivial mistakes.
… letting fear of having my feelings hurt harm my relationships and connections.
… picking on myself for the way I look, sound and how I carry myself.
… reliving negative memories and feelings from the long ago past.

As I looked at the calendar’s beautiful nature photos and fresh clean pages, I thought that HOW I chose to live my life over these 12 months would be even more important than WHAT I was planning to do. So, on the front page, in big letters, I wrote my resolution:

I will not let negativity diminish my joy in life,
belief in myself, or caring for others.

As I worked to find ways to keep this resolution, I soon learned blind optimism – where I made promises that were impossible to keep – was NOT the solution to negativity. Nor did ignoring or suppressing strong feelings of negativity work, since they just kept leaking out in other ways. Instead I needed to find methods to transmute negative feelings into positive action. And I did!

These lessons that I learned with the help of numerous wonderful people serve as the foundation for many of Kidpower’s emotional safety, boundary-setting, conflict resolution, and healthy relationship skills we teach.

Let me share 10 of these valuable lessons:

  1. Accepting that we do NOT have to be perfect to be great.
  2. Not letting fear of disappointing others or of being disappointed ourselves rule our lives.
  3. Being persistent when things don’t immediately work well, instead of giving up and feeling badly about it.
  4. Recognizing hurtful or unsafe relationships, situations, and behavior, and protecting our feelings from those.
  5. Letting go of needing people to act a certain way or for things to happen the way we want in order to feel good about ourselves.
  6. Setting strong and respectful boundaries instead of dithering, complaining, or staying unhappy.
  7. Managing our emotional triggers rather than letting them rule us.
  8. Knowing when to let go of something we can’t do effectively, and to let someone else do it, or even accept that it might not happen.
  9. Getting help when we are stuck, including professional counseling if needed, in order to gain perspective, heal from past hurts, and find good solutions.
  10. Recognizing that leaving a damaging relationship or stopping something that is not working is sometimes the best choice.

I recognize that some situations are so upsetting that negative feelings can become overwhelming. However, letting the negativity continue can be counter-productive and often adds stress to an already difficult problem. Another lesson I learned was that creating a visual image for containing, transforming, or letting go of this negativity can help protect emotional health.

For example, recently I had to deal with a very painful personal situation, I visualized sending my rage and sorrow up to the sun, and imagined my feelings adding enough energy for our sun to burn for an extra 100,000 years. Visualizing getting rid of my negative energy left me both feeling less stressed and being better able to do cope with subsequent things I needed to do.

I confess that even though I make an ongoing practice of using these skills and strategies, occasionally I still find myself wasting time in useless negativity. The difference is that now I can recognize what is happening and do something about it sooner rather than later.

I would love to hear about YOUR experiences in changing negative feelings into positive actions, as well as situations where you might feel stuck. Just email me safety@kidpower.org. As always, we will keep your name and details confidential unless you give specific permission to share them.

 

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Published: January 14, 2019   |   Last Updated: January 14, 2019

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.

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