Wow! What a year it has been!
Some good has come of it, although I know that many things that could have gone wrong in 2020 have done so.
But let’s focus on moving forward.
Catch up on and oldie but goodie: Ditch Traditional Resolutions – Self-Care all the way
Even though 2021 seems very uncertain yet, there are things we might be able to do to help ourselves in our individual, personal lives, especially as we are spending a lot more time with ourselves than anyone else at the moment.
2020 has been a year of realising our priorities, listening to those thoughts that we didn’t have time to pay attention to – or even notice they were there, with all the noise going on in our lives all the time.
The things that were background are now at the forefront. Hard to avoid, demanding our attention.
Maybe, for some of us, it means that we realise we weren’t really meeting our needs, and that our boundaries were all over the place.
This is where I, and this blog post come in. I’ve written 20 Self-Care Habits with the aim of helping people that read it, to improve their lives and relationships.
But I didn’t want to just give you a to-do list of how to do it – you can get the book for that and find creative ways to put my suggestions into practice.
In this post, I wanted to talk about a series I’ve been watching, that has been triggering all kinds of reactions in me: “say no, Nina”, “oh my gosh, don’t they realise she’s working?”, “why isn’t that phone on silent!”
The Offspring (read a review here) Netflix series, with main character Nina Proudman and her un-boundaried family members will be the source of my tips and tricks to start 2021 off right.
For your sake. For your relationships’ sake.
P.S.: I highly recommend it, it’s a funny watch, relatable in many ways, and a break from everyday life. Although if you’re like me, it will sometimes irritate you and make you want to put your hands through the screen and shake some sense into them all!
A strong one to start this post with? Maybe. But Nina is finding herself in the throws of a bad breakup, and it’s not like you’d expect.
I will try to not give you too many spoiler alerts, apologies for this first one!
In a further episode, Nina discloses that she married Brendan because he workshiped her and she needed to feel that she was doing something right. She settled for a madman that shows his love in very particular and, well, explosive ways.
She just can’t keep him away, and he won’t relent. He’s obsessed and stalks her everywhere, making it clear that he’s unhappy about her new boyfriend or just letting her know he’s still around.
It’s hard for Nina to say “no”. That’s the issue with her life, and this is no different.
But having a toxic relationship doesn’t mean she has to stay in it.
Getting out of a toxic relationship might be tricky, especially when it’s family. But being family doesn’t mean you have to suffer for the rest of your life with unreasonable demands, unwarranted criticism or unsolicited advice, right?
Some thoughts to consider:
- is there anyone in your life that sounds a bit like Brendan?
- Do you relate with how Nina ended up in this situation?
- What is in your control around this toxic relationship?
As you will read in the review, the phones in this series are always on loud, with annoying ringtones and an urgency that is felt from the first ring.
It’s been quite a few years since I’ve heard the sound of my phone, and I can tell you it makes a massive difference!
This is where I want to shake Nina Proudman into some sense, and just shout “you don’t have to answer that right now!”
But I can’t, ’cause she’s a fictional character to start with. Second, people need to realise for themselves what will work for them and what boundaries they need to set.
If you’re still reading this, then you’re one of the people I can help by writing to you about what’s worked for me and other people I’ve helped through the years.
Boundaries are important. Carrying our phones in our pockets has made it more difficult to have proper time on our own, without distractions or outside world demands.
Having said that, it’s not impossible to achieve.
Here are a few key points to ponder on as we embark on a new and uncertain 2021:
- do you have to be the fire-fighter for all your friends and families’ fires?
This is what Nina does: every time someone gets in touch, she goes out and helps them out, forgetting what she was doing, or that she’s exhausted from a day’s work at the hospital.
She even answers the phone in the middle of a consultation with a patient! If this was real life, she’d be given a warning, or at least told to leave her phone in her locker while on shift.
I’d be horrified to have my phone ring in the middle of a session – and then to answer it in front of the client! No way!
- when someone rings you demanding something, should you make this your priority?
You are your priority. This doesn’t mean you won’t help your loved one. This just means that you’ll get to them when you can, not when they demand things of you.
I know that’s hard to fathom for some of us on the people-pleasing spectrum (It’s still had work for me, I often go back to my own book and remind myself of what I’ve learned through the years.
It is paramount that we stop and consider where we are, what we are doing, and what we need right this moment, before saying “yes, I’m on my way”, when what we really want to say is “I’m sorry, I can’t right now, but let’s meet at 5 and we’ll figure it out then”.
- what would happen if you didn’t pick up the phone each time your sister, mother, father, friend, called you to ask for a favour to be done right this minute?
I can give you a preview of what would happen: you’d not feel resentful toward yourself for answering when you know you’re otherwise engaged and unable to help; you’d not feel resentful against your demanding loved one for their expectation that you will fire-fight them with the mess they got themselves into anyway; you’d have less anxiety (Nina is very anxious all the time; you’ll see her with a paper bag and running to hide in various places so she can calm down; she also has a very overactive imagination and great ability to “loop” in her own thoughts.
Finally, you’d have more time and space for what you need. This is important. You can’t pour from an empty cup, the saying goes.
Give yourself time to replenish. If you let them, people will figure out how to do things on their own, with minimal instant support from you.
- would a few minutes, hours, days of not fire-fighting other people’s problems give you time to fire-fight your own, and think about your own needs?
The answer, as you can surmise from the previous point is a resounding YES!
I’ve seen so many people that I’ve worked with benefit from learning to say “no” and realising that they also have needs.
Needs they’ve been neglecting because they’ve forgotten themselves and have put others first, in spite of their true feelings about it.
They find themselves with more peace, knowing that they can take the space they need – by switching off the phone; limiting speaking to a loved one to once or twice a week rather than every day, or sometimes many times a day!
They also find that they enjoy their relationships more, because they don’t have the pressure of fire-fighting or being there 24/7 when they actually don’t even want to anyway.
I could go on forever, but that would make this post very long! Let’s move on to point number 3.
Nina is a stickler for making assumptions.
Oh it’s not little things like “I must’ve said something during surgery, so he’s now upset with me”. No, no no. It’s major things like “he hates me, I was rude to him and now he will end it all with me”.
Dramatic? Yep. It’s one of the things that make me giggle in this show – not her predicament in itself, the poor girl needs some help ASAP! (hey, I can say this about a fictional character lol).
The whole series is peppered with her vivid imagination – they show here approaching someone and then the scene changes to what she would expect to happen or what she wished to happen.
It’s quite humurous if you put the human-ness of the actual situation aside (cringe!).
People making assumptions is the biggest peeve of mine. It literally makes my skin crawl.
So many issues could be avoided if Nina just learned to communicate better with her love interests, and stop making ridiculous assumptions!
If it was that easy, Offspring wouldn’t be so captivating, would it?
But it’s not only assumptions that get her in trouble with her paramores.
The unconscious (another favorite topic of mine, and the protagonist in my upcoming novel) also plays a big role in Nina’s disastrous love life.
It happens to all of us at lesser degrees. The Offspring sets off the dynamite. We usually just have sparks of it and are better at figuring things out without voluntarily lighting the fuse and watching it go “boom!”.
Between erroneous advice from meddling relatives, her own anxieties and past relationships faux-pas, Nina makes mistakes and assumptions all over the place.
Instead of asking “do you want to be with me or not”, she avoids the poor guy who is clueless as to what story she’s been imagining up in her head.
It then gets worse when he starts getting fed up with trying to figure it out and finally, in a very self-fulfilling-prophecy kind of way, decides to leave or not pursue anything with her anymore.
It is quite infuriating as even a smidge, a tiny tiny bit of clear communication could’ve gotten them to understand that their baggage was getting in the way of them meeting in the present.
Baggage, conscious or not, can hinder our relationships. But if we understand what’s there (which neither of these lovely characters seem to be aware of, except maybe one), then we can start building on understanding why we do what we do, and how to heal from the wounds of the past so we can have a good relationship in the here-and-now.
I haven’t finished watching the series, but her latest boyfriend (season 3) actually hints at setting boundaries and having limits. He is a breath of fresh air!
He also sets some boundaries of his own, which send Nina off into a complete meltdown. This is another one of those moments where I want to shake Nina and go “leave the poor man alone!”.
OK. So, what to do about our assumptions, unconscious, and difficulties with communicating?
- Instead of assuming the worst, or making up something in your mind that will leave you anxious for days or weeks, would it be possible to ask the person involved to help you clarify and understand the situation?
I find people are usually OK with us asking for clarification, or offering a solution.
If not, I’d consider whether they are your people or not (go back to point #1).
become more aware of your unconscious processes
You can do this by reading books that help you get to know yourself better; you can also attend a few therapy sessions to learn more about yourself (therapy isn’t always about crisis); you can notice and observe how you react in particular situations and work out whether your reactions have to do with the present moment only or if they link to past experiences.
- practice better communication so your needs are met
A way to do this is to ask questions: “what did you mean by that?”, “can I call you back, I’m busy right now?”
Another way is to look inward before saying “yes” or assuming the worst.
Becoming more aware of ourselves is key. A mindset change about how we are in the world is very important.
I will end this post with this: we can be our best friends or our worst enemies.
What we say to ourselves about ourselves can make or break us.
Nina is always talking negatively about herself, or simply judging herself in a very bad way.
Of course we make mistakes as human beings, and we regret them. But it’s the way we deal with them that will mark how we live and move through life.
Challenging our thoughts, and being aware to start with, is going to be a great life, and relationship, saver for us.
- When you start calling yourself names, stop and reframe
What do I mean by stop and reframe?
Use the traffic light analogy. Usually, we go straight to a green light with judgements, accusations and negative thoughts about ourselves.
Try and stop at the red light, then in the amber, consider what you’re saying to yourself and do a “reality check”.
Are the things I’m telling myself real, or is this heat-of-the-moment, deprecating self-talk>
Do I need to talk to myself like this?
Find some positives, some evidence against these things you’re telling yourself about yourself.
- who told you that about yourself?
In some of my cases with clients , I’ll ask them this question, and the answers are powerful.
Someone in their past told them that they were useless, crazy, didn’t speak well, their hair colour is wrong, they will never amount to anything, and so on.
These phrases have stuck with them and are haunting them from the unconscious. From the past.
Untangling these, figuring out where they come from, means that we can make more space to think for ourselves.
How do you really see yourself? Do you see yourself as useless, crazy? Do you really believe you’ll never amount to anything?
No? I didn’t think so.
Let’s start clearing out those thoughts that don’t even belong to you in the first place, and replace them with kinder, more realistic versions of who you are.
You are useful in so many ways, to yourself and others. You’ve done so many things in your life, you have amounted to so much!
Can you see that?
Get some examples on a piece of paper and prove those voices/people from the past wrong once and for all!
Alright, I believe I’ve picked on Nina plenty for one post. I hope I haven’t given too much of the series away, and that you’ll still watch it. I’m enthralled by it!
If the tips in this post have helped you in anyway and you would like to work some more on setting clear boundaries and meeting your needs, there are a few things you can do:
- Buy the book – 20-Self-Care Habits (read more about it here)
- Find out a bit about The Beckoning Rooms, a fiction novel about the unconscious (to be published in Spring 2020)
- Visit my website for more on self-care coaching, counselling, and more resources
- Get in touch with any questions or comments
Karin Brauner is passionate about helping people get on track – or back on track – in their personal and professional lives, through practical tools and inspirational conversations in a variety of settings.
Karin teaches tools that she’s learned and developed throughout her own life. She knows how hard things can get, but also how great things can be once you move through to the other side.
She now shares the knowledge she’s gained, through various mediums, to show people a path to better self-care, support when processing their past and working out their present so they can lead an improved life and thrive in their personal and professional relationships.