Healthy is as Healthy Does: Traits of the Emotionally Healthy
What does emotional health look like? Therapists talk a lot about being emotionally healthy, but if you’ve never seen it, or had anyone demonstrate it to you, how do you know what it looks like?
I spent years figuring out what being emotionally healthy was and working on becoming it, because I realised that I wasn’t. From my own journey to emotional health, I noticed that there are several traits that emotionally healthy people all had in common:
They are self-focused not other people focused: That’s not to say they don’t put other people’s needs ahead of their own at times, it’s more that they don’t lose themselves or neglect their own needs in favor of someone else’s. They have a good sense of what they want, what they like, what they need and they have no problem making these things a priority. They have their eyes on their goals and their future, independent of anyone else.
They have a very low tolerance for dysfunctional people: Healthy people don’t have a need to fix or control other people. As they are self-focused, they aren’t interested in carrying someone else’s baggage. They look to make themselves better by association, not worse. Certainly they will help out someone in need, but they don’t invest their lives, their emotions, or their future in deeply troubled individuals. They don’t ignore red flags and serious issues. They aren’t interested in relationships that soar and crash and cause havoc and drama in their lives, instead they seek out relationships that are stable and reliable, with like-minded people.
They aren’t afraid of conflict and they communicate effectively: As a child, you may have been taught to be quiet, that your wants and needs aren’t important and to avoid any behaviour that might arouse anger, aggression, criticism, or attention from your caregivers. Communication is vital to every human relationship and when this is how you’ve been trained to interact with the world, you’re starting out with a huge disadvantage. How you express yourself is a measure of your self-esteem. Don’t keep quiet about important issues that need to be address, with the hope that they will go away, or that the other party will come around to your way of thinking. You cannot expect people to be able to read your mind. All that does is set you up for failure, heartache and pain.
Healthy people are not passive aggressive: They don’t agree to do something and then not do it, or sulk in protest. If they don’t want to do something – they say they don’t. They aren’t overly aggressive either. You don’t need to yell or intimidate to get your point across. When you don’t speak your mind you leave the door wide open for miscommunication. Emotional manipulators live in life’s ambiguity. When you’ve clearly indicated your intention, there’s no room for misunderstanding. Get in the practice of always saying what you mean and meaning what you say.
They are impeccable with their word: Emotionally healthy people aren’t looking to deceive or manipulate others to get ahead. They are independent, dependable, reliable and trustworthy. If they tell you they will do something – they do it. There is no guess work with healthy people, no drama – they prefer honesty and integrity.
They make self-care a priority: Self-care is more than just fitness, it’s about taking the necessary time and doing the necessary things to keep yourself balanced. Many of my friends have young children and any mother can tell you how daunting that can be, but those women who don’t hesitate to take a night off to spend time being with friends, or pursuing their interests and hobbies, are the happiest. They tell me, if they allow themselves to get too overwhelmed, it will show in how they parent. They’ll have less patience, get angry, or frustrated more easily and generally, be more stressed out –which affects everybody. But when they take the time to recharge, get centred and have fun, they know they will be better all around, for taking care of themselves first.
They hold themselves to higher standards and have more confidence: Today when I observe my very accomplished friends, I notice is that they dive right into their tasks. They don’t procrastinate or get bogged down with self-doubt – they just do it. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have a plan, or they won’t redo their work several times, but they roll up their sleeves and get to work, knowing that nothing is impossible for them and they even look forward to the challenge. They have certain expectations of themselves, they’re committed and they know they’ll do it right. Their expectation is born from the belief that they have in themselves, their abilities and their past experiences with success. When you start off knowing that you can do something, you’re already more than half way there.
They are not self-destructive: Healthy people don’t feel that they are lacking, or that they have voids to fill. Everyone has something about themselves they would change, but healthy people don’t get hung up on these things. They’re not looking to escape reality, or dull a hurt. Healthy people don’t want to hurt themselves. They have healthy attitudes about themselves and their abilities and they are genuinely happy and positive about life.
They have and enforce boundaries: Boundaries are kind of the buzz word of my blog. I realise now that I grew up with little boundaries and that led to people walking all over me. Healthy people are taught to have boundaries, to respect their rights and the rights of others. They were taught about fairness, morality and respect. Healthy people have a strong sense of right and wrong. They have no problem helping someone out, but they know where the line is between helping and being taken advantage of. They have an intact and fully functioning warning detector and they trust it. They treat people with respect and if this isn’t reciprocated, they have no interest in any further engagement.
They are attracted to like-minded people: Healthy people aren’t interested in drama and tension in their relationships, family and friends. They seek out peace and being with people who they can trust and reasonably predict their behavior. They don’t do the egg shell shuffle.
So there it is. I was looking for this big mystery and it was right in front of my eyes. If you want to know what healthy is, take a look at the attitudes and behaviors of those you respect and admire most and then do that!