self love

Improve Relationships Over the Holidays

5 Ways to Improve Relationships Over the Holidays

Holidays can be divisive, and if you celebrate winter holidays that many people in the US celebrate, this can be a tough time on our egos, confidence, and relationships.

Just last week, a friend of mine told me that her teenaged son decided to bring up a political and military conflict in another country while everyone was having a Thanksgiving meal (the US holiday). He brought it up with a grandparent that had very clear difference of opinion. 

It is this scenario that does the opposite to improve relationships over the holidays, but there are ways you can forge better connections with others during the holidays while families are near.

Accept Others As They Are

This blog, in particular, is all about self love, confidence, and happiness. When you look at others, it is best for you if you assume positive and see them as people who are also looking for happiness. They just might not be doing it the same way you do.

When you are with others, understand that they have a right to be in all the spaces you are in. Nothing will calm another person down as quickly as letting them know: “Hey, we might not think or see things the same, but I respect your right to be who you are.”

Imagine if others said that to you, wouldn’t it feel so accepting? I do this by recognizing the inner child in everyone looking for approval and love. It helps me answer challenges that other put to me in a way that honors the humanity in others.

Approach Situations With Curiosity

Sometimes, the people we love only really get a chance to be around each other during the holidays. What can then happen is that they try to put as much of themselves out there as possible in a short amount of time. They do this so others can see the things that are important to them, but egos can really start to clash.

Slow this down with curiosity. When someone you love, who you might not see a lot, seems to be acting over the top or “doing the most,” ask them questions. Say things like:

  • Can you help me understand _(someone’s action or an event)_____?
  • Tell me more about what you mean with that.
  • Can you give me some background about why you feel that way?
  • Here’s how I am seeing _(the situation)__ what do you think?

We have a download here where you can also learn to paraphrase while being curious.

Remember, the conversation is not about winning, it is about connecting and understanding.

Come to Agreements

While listening to others around the holidays, you might find that things need to move forward. If you have taken time to listen to someone else and feel that they have listened to you, make some agreements so that you both can understand each other better.

Relationships can sometimes need negotiating. In the example of my friend’s son bringing up politics with grandpa, you can ask for an agreement from your son. You can say something like, I know you are passionate about the political climate right now, but could you hold off on these conversations during the holiday meal? If your son agrees, you can kindly hold him to that agreement later.

Or how about you want help cleaning up after the meal. Gather the family together ahead of time and let them know you’d like them to help you clean up after. Ask them to agree and they will usually be willing to stick to the agreement.

Agreements have a way of shifting our behaviors so we align to what we promise. 

Maintain Loving Boundaries

All of the above strategies to improve your relationships over the holidays give you the opportunity to hold true to your loving boundaries. If you are unsure of your boundaries, we have a Boundary Booklet you can download just to the left of this article.

Overall, your boundaries communicate a trust for others. They are more than just a psychological wall you build to keep yourself safe. You use your boundaries to let others know that they can run their own lives. It is okay for you to stand beside them, but you will not live their lives for them.

During the holidays, boundaries are more necessary than ever. They will help you have curios conversations without taking on something that is not yours. These boundaries will also help you hold others to the agreements they have made while also allowing you to accept when people might not be able to live up to those agreements.

Two women talking over a table.

Notice the Best

Overall, take time to notice the best in all of the people around you. 

It is easy to get overwhelmed during the holidays and see where people are falling short. Instead, do a quick mindset shift and notice where people are trying and how others bring good energy to a space. Then comment on it. Let others know that you are noticing what is positive about them.

Comment on their strength and the effort you see them putting in. When they meet an agreement, it doesn’t take anything away from you to let them know you appreciate it. Spread that gratitude and see the light in others.

Dr. Autumn Thomas

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Self Love and Loving Others

Self Love and Loving Others

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Self love is not an act of selfishness. In fact, it is actually the opposite. 

How you see and treat others is a projection of how you see and treat parts of yourself.

Now, I know that you could argue against the statement above, but I would challenge you to really consider how you are treating yourself and others.

The point here is that if you love yourself, and are working on a relationship with yourself, that will shift how you interact with others. You might be asking yourself, how can my self love improve my relationships with others?

Relationships are Essential

First, consider how human beings are wired for connection. From birth, we are wired to mimic and depend on others for survival. 

As we grow, we find that our connections with others can have a profound effect on our emotional wellbeing. Some of our connections are healthy and others are not. The human connection is a basic survival need even as we try to establish our individuality during adolescence.

Sometimes, we get the message that other people’s needs are more important than ours. We can also start to lose sight and love for our own selves.

Our instincts are to feel and show love for others, but it can get distorted if there is any kind of abuse or violation of trust. Due to this, we can start to focus more and more outside of ourselves for a sense of worth. 

On the other hand, we could end up building and fostering healthy and loving relationships that keep us thriving. Then we reach an age where our self worth and self love are more within our control, but do we have the skills to love ourselves while loving others at that point?

The First Relationship to Work On is the One With Yourself

When people move into a path of self love, it is usually because they see that their relationships with others are just not working the way they wish they would.

In many Buddhist traditions, there is an understanding that someone will continue to suffer over and over until they realize that they no longer want it. When someone is suffering in their relationships, they often can realize that they are missing something like self-esteem or self love. 

Once a person has decided that enough is enough, they can start working on their most important relationship, the one with themselves.

Many people avoid this because it can seem selfish, but that’s not what self love is.

Self love is when you begin to nurture yourself. You start to see yourself as worthy of love, boundaries, healthy relationships, and tenderness. As a result, you start to seek out tools to show these things for yourself.

As this starts, some of your more toxic relationships will no longer be tolerable for you. Conversely, the most healthy relationships you have will start to play a more important role.

As You Work On Yourself, You Benefit Others

A true self love journey is really just a journey about love itself.

When you are loving yourself, you have real and difficult conversations with yourself. 

The deep conversation with yourself will be to explore your values, define your vision for who you want to be, know how you will show up in the world, work on your boundaries, and more. You will move towards a consistent understanding of who you are.

Although your work will be internal, your changes will start to be external. Others will begin to see the impacts of your work. You will essentially be modeling how they also can begin to love themselves.

Here’s an example: 

You start to work on your boundaries and begin to realize that your boundaries actually communicate how much you trust others to handle their own lives. Because of this, you start to express how much you trust those around you to make their own decisions. Soon, others around you start to feel that trust and responsibility for themselves and they feel empowered.

Your Self Love Will Create Patience and Understanding

Your relationship with yourself, your modeling for others, and the growth you make will teach you patience and understanding of yourself.

As a result, you’ll begin to realize that everyone else might be working on similar skills. This will lead you to slow down and understand people more. You will start to communicate more with others in different ways so you can understand them and work through any problem in a loving way.

Finally, your assumptions about others will begin to feel more positive and humane, which will support deep relationships.


The above are just a few reasons why self love actually connects you to others, but there are so many more reasons.

When you learn to love yourself, you learn what love is. You begin to look inside of you and see something radiant and beautiful. Consequently, you start to see that same beauty inside of others. 

You cannot start to develop a deep and nurturing love for yourself and not see the worthiness of those around you.  

At the very least, it will do no harm to love yourself.

Dr. Autumn Thomas

By starting a self love journey, you are making a powerful statement to yourself and others. Begin with our program: Techniques for Self Love and Acceptance.

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Don’t Feed Toxic People as a Part of Your Self Love

Don't Feed a Toxic Person as a Part of Your Self Love

You’ve been there. A person is constantly triggering you.

For some reason, something about this person makes you feel like you need to defend yourself or argue. Whenever you are around this person you can feel the irritation and anger rise up.

This person is toxic to you. 

They might seem to be able to get along with others, or you may notice that they are always having the same problems with other people. In either case, YOU are not able to keep boundaries with this person. Also, you might notice that you act differently than you want to around this person.

You are improving yourself, keeping cool, regulating your emotions, but this person keeps finding ways to make you feel out of control.

Your Reaction Feeds Them

Whether they are conscious of it or not, a toxic person feels very comfortable with conflict. They might act dramatic or say that they are “no drama,” but that is just not true.

On the psychology side of this situation, toxic people continue to find themselves in hard and volatile situations. It is a part of their makeup. They were probably raised in chaotic environments and recreate this wherever they go. 

Unless they are coming to you to get support in their own healing journey, it is really their problem and not yours. (It’s never actually your problem)

Knowing this, you need to understand that your reaction or overreaction feeds something inside of them. There is a deep satisfaction that they get when you get triggered by the subtle (or obvious) things they do to you.

How to React

When you feel a trigger around someone, it is a sign for you to get some space. 

If you can, safely walk away and be with yourself. You might want to go process your feelings with someone, but be sure it is someone who will not tell your thoughts to the toxic person. A toxic person will claim they HATE being gossiped about, but that’s not true. The gossip will again feed their toxicity.

Instead, take a walk, journal, talk to your therapist, or meditate on the event. Decide if this person is toxic and then decide not to feed them.

By not feeding a toxic person, I mostly mean ignoring them. Communicate lovingly if you have to interact with them, but limit your time with this person. The JADE technique is a great way to remember not to Justify, Argue, Defend, or Explain anything to this person.

Here’s what will happen. They might try to draw you back into some kind of relationship with them or lash out on you, at first. But gradually, you will no longer be available for them to get their fix. They will start to look elsewhere for the chaos that they create. 

You will begin to live in peace. Do you want peace? Or do you want the drama and chaos this person brings into your life? Reflect on that.

Dr. Autumn Thomas

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Anger Management and Self Love

Anger Management and Self Love

Many people beat themselves up when they react in a situation with anger and lashing out. This can increase an angry reaction and make matters worse. You’re here because you know that anger can destroy your relationships and do harm to others, but it does immense damage to you as well. Without a doubt, anger management and self love go hand in hand.

Self Love is a gentle way to nurture yourself while you grow and change in the direction you have chosen for yourself. If anger is getting in the way of your goals, relationships, and dreams for yourself, it might be time to try some strategies based on loving yourself. 

Where to Start

When I work face-to-face with my students, we list out emotion words that describe our anger. Using a scale from 1-10 we decide where each word ranks. For example, a situation that is a 1 would be something that causes us mild irritation. But a 10 is a situation that might push us to violence.

We then associate circumstances, in our lives, that bring us between a 1 and a 10. It is important for us to realize that a 10 is a situation where your life is literally in danger. Many people hit a 10 because their body and mind might feel a major threat, but in reality they are not at risk of being physically harmed.

Overall, the first place you start is recognizing what situations are causing you the most anger.

Recognizing Triggers

After ranking angry situations, you can begin to recognize your triggers. You will notice your anger more and be conscious of it when it comes up. 

At first, you might still lash out when you get angry. This is natural because your wiring in your brain is used to driving you to act a certain way. With any behaviors, you sometimes need to notice them after you act them out before you can begin to catch yourself during your reaction. The growth process will look like this:

  1. You will still get angry and overreact or lash out, but you will remember soon after that you have a goal to stop behaving this way.
  2. After reflecting, you will identify what triggered your anger and will make a plan for next time.
  3. During the next situation you will recognize your anger reaction DURING the reaction.
  4. If you are practicing self love, you will be able to see that you are growing and changing by being conscious of your anger sooner this time.
  5. Again, you will reflect and identify any new triggers you haven’t already noticed.
  6. After some time, you will notice your anger before you react with angry behaviors and you will remove yourself from the situation to go take care of your anger.

With this in mind, you will need some techniques to help you work through all of these steps and beyond.

Techniques for Anger Management
- With a Self Love Emphasis

To work through the stages listed out above, you will need tools. These tools can be applied based on your own preferences and what works best for you. After all, you are unique and will need to bring awareness into how you learn the best.

Connect with Your Anger – You are made of many different parts. You have an amazingly generous part of you, the kind and gentle part of you, the funny part, and also this angry part. While recognizing your triggers and anger, you need to connect to this part of you. You might need to do some inner child healing, or therapy to understand this part of you and not avoid it. You might even need to start working on  communicating your boundaries.

It is not the anger that is the negative part of your experience, it’s the energy that blocks you from connecting to your anger that causes negativity. Connect so you can heal.

Labeling Your Emotions – When you are angry, you can google words for anger and start to label the anger with different words. You might find that you are disappointed, frustrated, betrayed, etc. Labeling emotions is a powerful tool to help calm your nervous system and get you ready to problem solve. 

Meditate and/or Journal – Taking time with yourself to meditate during times when you are not angry, helps to prepare your mind for times when anger arises. Journaling can also help you to release some of the anger, if you do it when you are first noticing that there’s a problem. Doing these things in times when you are calm helps you access these strategies in times when you are angry. After much practice, you will be able to remove yourself from the situation and process in a way that’s best for you.


Overall, you will not be able to fully get rid of your anger.  Anger serves a purpose in survival situations and is a natural part of you.

This part of you needs acceptance and love. When you learn to step away from a situation where you might do something you regret, you will gain time with yourself. Consequently, you will start a conversation with yourself about what you deserve and how you can be healthy. This will begin to impact your relationships in a loving and encouraging way. 

Dr. Autumn Thomas

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What is Self Love?

What is Self Love?

Start by Defining Love

If you are asking the question, what is self love? Then it might be good for us to first explore the word “love.”

bell hooks described her exploration for a universal definition of “love” in her book all about love. She chose Erich Fromm’s definition that love is, “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” 

The key word in that sentence is the word “nurture.” bell also emphasized that you cannot nurture and be purposefully hurtful or abusive. Furthermore, love is a verb.

There are so many definitions of love. Because of this, it is hard to decide which definition is the best. Many people have been taught that sometimes people who love us will hurt us. We have learned that love might be associated with affection and attraction (either physically or spiritually) to someone else. 

Instead, the word “love” describes the feeling we have for someone/something that we want to see thrive. Love is deep attachment to our curiosity about someone or something outside of us. We feel it on a spiritual level.

True Love

What we think of as love can make us possessive and competitive. It can pull out our egos and fill us with jealousy. The strong emotion that is usually associated with love can confuse us.

Yet, if you think about it, you know what true love really is. All you have to do is imagine your ideal self. Your ideal self is a person who is giving, kind, patient, and mentally clear. This ideal version of you loves in a pure way that is never selfish or hurtful.

This person nurtures all of the people around them. That nurturing is true love. True love is taking the elated and joyful feelings you have and transforming them into the acts of listening, guiding, caring, respecting, trusting, tenderness, and freedom.

If a person who is “loving” were to act in that way towards all the people in their lives, this would be the type of love described in all spiritual theologies. This person lives in you, they are a part of you.

Applying True Love to Yourself

If a “loving person” acts in a nurturing, kind, patient way. Then this means all of the people who come in contact with this person feel heard, cared for, and free to be themselves. Also, they can heal and grow.

Self love is applying all of these behaviors and actions to yourself. Self love is the act of nurturing yourself. Consequently, with self love, you can begin to release hurtful or abusive ways that you might treat yourself.

Gradually, as a result of working on a true love for yourself, you emulate that love for others. 

Self love is just like any other love, it takes investment, time, patience, and commitment. It is beautiful road with hills and various adventures. It is not always pleasant, but it is worth it.

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Boundaries and Red Flags

Boundaries and Red Flags

When you are beginning to explore your boundaries, you may start noticing how others react to them. These reactions could be considered red flags. It’s important to pay attention to your boundaries and red flags that come up.

When a red flag comes up, it is usually a feeling that we have. It can start with alarm, a feeling of uncertainty, mistrust, sadness, anger, or any negative feeling that just feels “off”.

Take Space When You Notice a Red Flag

When you notice a red flag it is because this person is triggering a response in you. Take some time and reflect as to why you are feeling this negative feeling.

Is it because you are being asked to do something that you cannot even control? Are you overwhelmed?

Will the choice that you are being asked to make slow down your progress in your self love journey?

It is better to approach a situation slowly, with a lot of reflection and love for yourself, rather than walk into a situation where you are feeling manipulated. 

When you feel a red flag, the first thing you have permission to do is step away and process that feeling. This is a boundary on its own, the right to take time to understand what you need.

A red flag doesn’t always mean that you have run away from someone. Just take space and evaluate if there are a lot of red flags and decide if it is time to communicate with the other person.

When Have You Ignored a Red Flag?

If you are wondering how to explore this for yourself, begin by reflecting on situations where you felt manipulated, you got angry and in a fight with someone, or you might have ended a friendship.

Now, think back on the beginning of that relationship or situation and decide when you might have ignored some warning signs.  Write down some of the things you might have not set a limit on. 

This is not an exercise in “beating yourself up.” Actually, this is a way to see your red flag patterns. You are brining your awareness to things you might dismiss. 

For Example

In example in my life occurred with a friend who wanted me to support them in a difficult work situation. I noticed that I was unsure about supporting this person in a work meeting, but ignored my red flag. I went into this meeting having my friend’s back without investigating the situation first. I stood firm with my friend and believed their victim story.

Later, I found out that my friend had not been fully honest with me and had caused a lot of problems behind the scene. They continued to manipulate me until I over-reacted in the situation. When I looked back, I realized I had plenty of red flags that I should have paid attention to.

If I had taken time to listen to myself, established a loving boundary, and allowed my friend to go through something that might have been hard, they may have grown and I would not have felt manipulated by them.

A good boundary would have been good for them and me.

Time to Communicate

After taking time to reflect, it is time to communicate your boundaries. There are many different ways to do this. If this part gets you nervous, take a look at our article here.

You do not necessarily have to end your relationship with someone, communicating is a skill that we are losing. 

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