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‘People tag’ - 11/28/2016

It’s Thanksgiving time again, and if your family is anything like mine, everyone eagerly has been anticipating the occasion. In fact, I dare to say it’s probably our favorite holiday of the year. It’s an opportunity to forget about dieting, to spend time with family and friends and to try out new recipes for side dishes to accompany the turkey.

For us, it’s a warm, inviting time of the year with few demands. We invite close friends and anyone we know who doesn’t have a place to go. The best thing is you don’t have to worry about buying gifts, going into debt or dressing up. All you have to do is arrive on time and bring a good appetite. I can almost taste it now: turkey three ways, stuffing, and cranberry/citrus relish, mashed potatoes and gravy, praline sweet potatoes, glazed shallots, cheesy corn casserole, cranberry muffins and a host of desserts.

Now, what possibly could be wrong with a holiday that provides all those benefits? Nothing, except that some people can take very good things and make the worst of them. They make mountains out of mole hills, stress over whether the food is gluten or fat free and obsess over how many calories they’re consuming. They worry about who they’ll be sitting next to, are ultra-sensitive to any signs of rejection and read into benign comments, hurtful intent they can ruminate over until next Thanksgiving.

Even worse, they may question the worth of the holiday itself or state, “There’s nothing I have to be thankful for.” I think how very sad it must be to walk in those person’s shoes, to feel as badly as they probably do and to view the world as empty of anything to be appreciative of. Sadly, their frame of mind doesn’t end or begin with this holiday. The holiday just makes it more apparent.

If you are, to any extent, one of those people, I have a suggestion that I believe can help you not only to better appreciate who you are, but to aid you to perceive your world more positively. At the same time, I recognize that other circumstances or factors may contribute to how you see your world, such as your health, finances or personal relationships. But, no matter how depressed you feel, I believe that it’s not the adversities that occur in your lives, but how you deal with them that determines how thankful you feel.

You might say, “That’s easy for you to say, but I’m alone, sick, poor and depressed. The future is bleak, and my past was terrible.” My response is, “I believe you, but I want to help you alter your outlook. The first step is for you to write a “people tag” that you can share with everyone you care for. However, the primary purpose isn’t for others, it’s because the writing of this tag can be significantly beneficial to you.

If you’re confused with regard to what a “people tag” is, let me describe one to you. Imagine that you decide to purchase a plant for your garden. You go to the nursery, and they have dozens of them to choose from. To help you make a decision, each plant has a tag that says, for example, “I’m a rose bush. My blooms are beautiful. You’ll love having me in your garden, but I require special care. I’m susceptible to disease and I tend to attract aphids, but there are sprays for both of them. I should also add that if you’re not careful, you could prick your fingers on my thorns and that I require good drainage and need to be fertilized. But, if you care for me, I will bloom profusely and you will see that I’m worth all the effort you expend.”

Well, the same care and requirements can be attributed to each of you. Writing your own “people tag,” particularly if it’s one that’s introspectively honest and open, can be a difficult, painful, but therapeutic task. It can help you: 1) to see yourself more clearly; 2) to provide you the opportunity to accept the person you see; and 3) to share that person with others, while making yourself vulnerable and transparent. All three are essential steps needed to create a positive self-image and lasting relationships with others.

To further aid you in this endeavor, let me share my own “people tag.” “I’m Ed Reitman. I’ve lived a long time and I’m very fortunate that a lot of people like me. However, that’s not an accident; I’ve worked hard to gain their acceptance. Why, because I desperately needed to feel loved and often questioned whether I deserved the space I occupy, the air I breathe and the care I desire. You see, I’m an emotionally needy person, who needs more than an average amount of attention. I’m not proud of it, but when that attention is lacking, I become moody, irritable and critical. But my bark is far worse than my bite. Actually, I have no bite, and I’m willing to give back to others, two or three times the love I receive. Over the years, I’ve learned to temper these reactions. I do still bark, but not nearly as frequently as before.

“Generally, I’ve learned to respond in healthier ways to my feelings of insufficiency and emotional neediness and to recognize that, although, I can’t change the past or who I am, I can change how I react. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m almost at a point where I no longer feel ashamed of my failings or have the need to punish me or apologize for them. As a result, I’m able to say to others, ‘Please don’t try to change me. It’s taken considerable work, time and pain for me to get to where I accept myself. So, if I don’t suit you, please find somebody else that does.’ ”

I’d like to think that because of my newly developed acceptance of me, I’m less angry or critical of myself and others. As a result, I feel happier, less driven and have a lot more to be thankful for. Even further, I believe each of you will feel the same if you write your “people tag.” It won’t change you but it can change the way you behave. Just remember that you needn’t be perfect and although you will never be totally emotionally healthy, you can learn to be thankful for what you do have and who you already are.

Lastly, in my next article I promise to more specifically fill you in with regard to the seven steps you need to take to learn to accept, love and be thankful for yourself. Happy Thanksgiving!

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