Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion: What's the Difference?

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Self-esteem and self-compassion sound very similar. After all, they involve how you view and treat yourself.

However, they are very different perspectives.

Knowing both, and the difference between them, is important for your mental well-being.

What Is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is how confidently you view yourself and your abilities.

University of Texas researcher, Dr. Kristen Neff, defines self-esteem as a “global evaluation of self-worth,” and asking yourself whether you are a good person or a bad person.

To evaluate your self-esteem, consider your answers these questions:

  • Are you the kind of person that has always had the knack of knowing what to do?
  • Do you take on a challenge with enthusiasm?
  • Have you developed self-assurance regarding your abilities after years of practice?

When you think about it, a part of self-esteem comes from the experiences that you have had throughout your lifetime, and the positive feedback you receive from others. These can include successes and how you responded to and recovered from failures. Both give you the knowledge, assurance, and confidence to know that you can handle the situation before you.

The Possible Self-Esteem Trap

Having self-esteem is a good thing. The issue is not that you have self-esteem, but how you get self-esteem. Oftentimes people fall into the trap of looking for self-esteem through the validation of others. You can also get trapped in comparing yourself to others and measuring your self-worth on how you compare to your friends, other families, your co-workers, and even what media communicates to you as a consumer – “Am I thin enough?” “Do I drive the right car, live in the trendiest neighborhood, or wear the best clothes?” “Is my family as well-adjusted as those I see on television, or at school, or at my church or synagogue?” “Am I as happily married as the couple across the street seems to be?” By comparing, you judge yourself. “Am I above average or below average?”

Everyone, of course, likes to hear a compliment or praise, and feel that they are above average. Yet, if you rely only on this outside commendation and comparisons to boost your self-esteem, you may be disappointed.

Self-esteem often depends on how successful we feel in areas of our lives that are important to us.

At the first sign of struggle or hardship, that shell of confidence and self-esteem may shatter. True self-esteem, in contrast, comes not from accolades, but from the grit and skills acquired within through your life experience, and the compassion you show to yourself through the ups-and-downs of normal life experience.

What Is Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion is how you treat yourself. Dr. Neff describes self-compassion as “relating to ourselves kindly, embracing ourselves as we are, flaws and all.”

For example, think about your answers to these questions:

  • Do you learn from your mistakes or beat yourself up over them?
  • Even when you do succeed, do you discount yourself?
  • Do you give yourself the same kindness, patience, gentleness, and compassion during difficult times, as you would give a friend going through something similar?

You may struggle with self-compassion if you regard yourself primarily with a negative point of view. This can have a serious impact on your relationships with others, as well as how you view yourself as a person.

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The Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion

There is a big difference between these two perspectives. Self-esteem is directly related to confidence. On the other hand, self-compassion is how you treat yourself. The two can be interrelated, however. Research shows that being self-compassionate can lead to higher self-esteem.

For example, let’s say you are a college student who has just received a poor grade on an exam. In the aftermath of receiving the poor grade, you could think that you are below average and don’t have what it takes to be in college to pursue your dreams and goals. You may compare your grade with those of your classmates who performed better on the exam and feel that you don’t measure up. With your self-esteem shattered over this one exam, you may consider yourself a failure. Or, you could look at the experience and use it as an opportunity to learn and grow, having self-compassion and never doubting that you are, overall, a good student.

As you can see, self-esteem is derived from external experiences, while self-compassion comes from deep inside.

What Can You Do to Improve Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion?

To improve both perspectives involves taking a risk. It means being willing to put yourself out there and to be open to both positive and negative experiences. It also calls for being honest about how you treat yourself and the outlook you have of yourself as a person.

If you discover that both outlooks are negative, try these ideas to improve them:

  • Start with identifying your strengths
  • Use a guided experience to try something new
  • When you find that you are being critical or judging yourself, consider how you might treat a friend who came to you with the same issue
  • Reflect on how you view the world and consider engaging another perspective

Getting Professional Help

You can also seek out professional help for understanding how you view yourself, and how you can improve your self-esteem and your self-compassion.

A therapist can work with you to explore why you struggle with self-esteem and/or self-compassion. The origin of low self-esteem and lack of self-compassion varies from person-to-person, but many times these issues may originate with your early life experiences or how you were treated when young. These experiences form the basis of how you view your world. A counseling professional can also help you learn techniques to boost both self-concepts in positive and affirming ways.

Self-esteem and self-compassion shape how you see yourself and others. If you struggle with these concepts, take steps soon to make the positive, self-affirming changes in your life you’ve been longing for.

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Janie McMahan, MA, LMFT, works with individuals who want to improve their self-esteem and self-compassion. If you struggle with emotions and beliefs that you are "not enough," contact her at 512-362-8050 to explore how you can live your life to the fullest.

Betrayal Trauma: Why You May Be Experiencing Affair Aftershock

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It’s no exaggeration that betrayal can hit you like an earthquake.

It shakes your life to its foundation and leaves behind a trail of destruction and hurt.

The worst part is that it often doesn’t stop there.

Just like earthquakes are frequently followed by multiple aftershocks, the pain connected with betrayal due to an affair can hit you over and over again. While aftershocks may not be as ground-shaking, they are nonetheless perilous.

Yes, the reality of betrayal trauma is agonizing and continuous.

But you don’t have to voluntarily surrender to it.

Often the best defense is an offense. So, start by gaining an understanding of why you may be experiencing betrayal trauma.

Betrayal Trauma – The Turmoil Deep Beneath the Surface

Betrayal can create psychological trauma when it overwhelms you emotionally, mentally, and physically to the point where your ability to cope is notably compromised.

It’s often not so much the affair that causes the deepest hurt, it’s the shattered trust and implicit belief in the person closest to you. The person you deeply loved, and that you thought loved you as well. This loss of security starts a turmoil deep down inside of you that eventually starts rising to the surface and expresses itself in various ways.

What effects might you be experiencing due to betrayal trauma?

Consider four:

1. Emotional pain

Your emotions may fluctuate quickly and over a wide range. The initial shock and every aftershock may trigger rage, anger outbursts, anxiety or fear. Those emotions then often plummet into sadness, depression, numbness, emptiness or despair. Followed by hope. Only to go back to irritability and starting the whole cycle over.

2. Physical pain

Due to the prolonged stress of betrayal trauma, you may also experience physical symptoms. Hypervigilance, hyperarousal, numbing, isolation, compulsive behavior, overeating, insomnia, nightmares, and flashbacks are all stress-related manifestations of unresolved emotional issues. Concentration may become a real challenge and affect work performance and your family life. Moreover, due to surging stress hormones, you may also experience broken heart syndrome—feeling like you’re having a heart attack.

3. Intrusive thoughts

You may be obsessing about the trauma, replaying imagined scenarios of what happened between your spouse and their affair partner or events that you formerly assumed were harmless but now view with suspicion. At times, you may even try to connect a sequence of unrelated situations in anticipation of a future betrayal. Triggers for these intrusive thoughts can come from everywhere.

4. Negative self-beliefs

Because the betrayal may have blindsided you, embarrassment and shame can lead to feelings of guilt and you looking for someone to blame—yourself. You may wonder how you could not have seen this coming, dubbing yourself “stupid” or “not good enough.” Thinking that your own flaws and failing brought this upon you, and even questioning if you’re capable of loving or being loved. Anything but accepting that the affair was not your fault.

Will You Let Betrayal Trauma Forever Rule Your Life?

Hopefully not.

Be assured that despite the major stress, despite the pain and agony, despite constant reminders and aftershocks, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is life after an affair.

Now that you know why you’re experiencing trauma, why the manipulation and seeming lack of concern of the person that you most counted on to have your back continue to shock you, it’s time to take action and fight back.

It’s time to address the underlying turmoil.

The best way to do that is with the help of a skilled and compassionate counselor, trained in techniques to combat betrayal trauma. One who can help you explore the issues, sift through the feelings and memories, and build confidence in your ability to overcome the nagging pain.
Janie McMahan is a marriage and family therapist in Austin, Texas. She works with couples and individuals to help them through the aftermath of relationship infidelity. She can be reached at 512-739-2494.

Highly Sensitive Person? How To Tell, Cope, & Thrive

Do loud noises, strong smells and visuals, or rough textures tend to overwhelm you easily?

Does the need for a quiet and private place drive you to withdraw when you feel swamped during a busy day?

Do you get flustered when you have much to do but little time to do it?

Have others ever called you “sensitive” or “shy”?

These traits may mean that you are a highly sensitive person. How would you know for sure?

How to Tell If You Are a Highly Sensitive Person

In general, a highly sensitive person is extremely perceptive and affected by a variety of external stimuli. They are more aware of nuances that others miss, but they’re also easily overwhelmed by sensory input. The main reason for such a response is that their brain processes incoming information more deeply.

What specific aspects would help you determine if you fall into this category?

You may be a highly sensitive person if you…

  • Feel uncomfortable in noisy environments – You may have a lower tolerance for loud music events, fireworks displays, or busy open office settings. The sights, smells, sounds, and activities in those situations put your senses into overdrive.
  • Become quickly overwhelmed in pressure situations – When things are too chaotic, complex, intense, or different from the norm for a long time, your anxiety level increases notably. You may also struggle with staying on task when you have too many things to handle.
  • Retreat when your senses become overloaded – You’re in need of equilibrium at the end of a busy day or week. You need quiet time in a dark bedroom or another private place to find your balance once again.
  • Grow angry when you’re hungry – Lack of nourishment may hinder your functioning, and your frustration shows unmistakably.
  • “Choke” when you’re under scrutiny – You most likely work best in private. But when you’re put on display, perhaps in front of your boss during a presentation, you often falter under the pressure.
  • Have a keen sense of other people’s discomfort – You may easily recognize when someone else feels overwhelmed by a situation.
  • Are easily moved by artistic expressions – Paintings, music, movies, or theatrical performances tend to touch you more than others. It’s not just that you have a special appreciation for creativity, but it consistently stirs your deepest emotions.

How to Cope with Being a Highly Sensitive Person

Such aspects as managing your environment and time, as well as taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally, lie at the foundation of coping if you are a highly sensitive person.

Consider some examples:

Eat healthy

Eating regular nutritious meals throughout the day will help you keep your blood sugar levels balanced. Intense hunger can be very disruptive for a highly sensitive person and make it hard to concentrate. Greatly limiting caffeine intake may also help you feel more calm and collected.

Reduce sensory disturbances in your environment

Limiting your exposure to stimuli that causes you problems can be done in various ways. For example: To lessen annoyance with bright lights, you could use bulbs with a lower lumen count in your home. Or you could avoid going to places you know have powerful lighting. To reduce agitation from noises, you may want to have at least one quiet space in your home to which you can retreat when you find it necessary.

(Tip: If you’re not at home, consider using noise-reducing headphones to block out the distractions so you can concentrate and have some personal peace of mind.)

Develop a schedule that works for you

A packed timetable will only frazzle you. Adjust your schedule and structure your work and home life in a way that it will give you the time and space to get things done. When you can start your day calm and unrushed, it can carry you through the whole day. And, in order to get all your errands done, you may want to consider living outside an average person’s schedule. That may mean going to the grocery store in the evening or to the movie theater on weeknights.

Make time to relax

After a busy work day or an event that challenged your senses, you must take some time to decompress and find your equilibrium again. Aside from your quiet space and soft lighting, you may want to find other ways to make your home more calming to your senses. Perhaps you can decorate it in a way that is pleasing to your eyes, reduces clutter, or uses gentle and calming aromas. Seek out beautiful surroundings outside your home, during regular walks in nature, restore the peace and balance you desire.

How to Thrive as a Highly Sensitive Person

Aside from just coping with your high sensitivity, you may also want to consider how you can tap into the benefits of your traits.

Yes, there are a lot of benefits. Being a highly sensitive person isn’t anything bad. You don’t need to be fixed!

Consider, for example, that while you may feel difficult emotions with more intensity than others, you can also feel the most beautiful emotions more deeply.

In fact, you can be highly aware and observant of your environment. Also, your capacity for picking up on matters that others miss can provide insight most people don’t have. In turn, that can help you be more empathetic—a very positive and endearing quality that draws others.

This deeper insight can also inspire your imagination, allowing you to construct an intricate and vibrant inner world that fuels creativity, intuition, and clarity. As a matter of fact, high sensitivity and creativeness often go hand-in-hand.

So, don’t ever think that as a highly sensitive person you can’t thrive. Quite to the contrary. Recognizing who you are can lead you to open up to a whole new awareness and understanding of yourself—one in which you thrive, not simply live!

Let Go Of Resentment: 6 Ways To Cope After Your Relationship Ends

It’s been said that holding on to resentment is like stabbing yourself with a knife and expecting the other person to feel the pain.

And that is so true! Resentment hurts you a lot more than the person you resent.

That’s because the person who’s the target of your resentment may not be bothered at all by your feelings. They may be doing just fine and continue enjoying their life, untroubled, while you’re eaten up by bitterness and anger.

Though, what if you just can’t seem to let go of resentment? What if you simply can’t forget the bad things this person has said or done?

The fact is, resentment doesn’t just hurt you, it’s also your choice.

‘But my ex made me resentful,’ you may think.

You see, the problem with that kind of thinking is that you’re putting too much importance on something you can’t control—the actions of someone else!

However, what you can control is how you react to the situation. And resentment is neither your only option nor the best one.

Why not change your approach and adopt some new strategies to help you let go of resentment and be able to live a happier life?

Consider six ways:

1. Remember, a thought is just a thought

When you recycle events over and over in your mind, you give them more power than they should have. Thoughts are simply thoughts. They don’t have to ruin your life by reminding you of the things that irritated you about your past relationship. You can take away their power by using the practice of mindfulness.

Take a deep breath, stay present, and let your thoughts and emotions simply pass by. Ask yourself: Why do I keep hanging on to those feelings? What purpose does that serve? Remind yourself that you can have negative thoughts and emotions, but they need a limit. You need to leave them in the past, so you don’t waste your energies in the present on things you can’t change.

2. Imagine yourself in a happier place

Once you allow yourself to stop dwelling on the pain and the what-ifs, give yourself permission to go to a happier place in your mind. Look at matters from a different perspective. Instead of being upset that your ex moved on so quickly, call to mind that you’ll get to start over with someone who treats you with the love and respect you deserve, someone who truly values you.

Manage your thoughts and emotions by accepting what they truly are—relics from the past that stand in the way of a happier future. True, you may never completely get over some negative feelings. But by focusing on the freedom you now have to pursue a happier life, you can greatly decrease the intensity of those thoughts and feelings.

3. Dwell on what makes you smile

If you’re not ready to conjure up images of a brighter future just yet, remind yourself of what makes you smile right now. Spend time with people that love you and care about you. Reflect on all the things in your life that you can be grateful for. It’s not that your whole life ended just because your relationship with one person didn’t work out. Continue to set goals for yourself and replace the hurt with enjoyable things.

4. Determine what’s truly important

Having the last say, getting back at your ex, making them understand just how much pain they’ve caused you—is that truly important? The fact is, not every offense has to be beaten into the ground. You’ll most often find that if it didn’t matter to them when you were still in a relationship, it matters even less now.

What’s important now is your happiness. And if children are involved, their happiness certainly must be the most important focus. For their sake, let go of resentment and invest in raising them together as co-parents in a peaceful way. That includes setting boundaries, sticking to higher standards, and adhering to agreements, no matter how you feel about your ex.

5. Uncover the lesson

As mentioned at the outset, you have no control over anybody but yourself. Remember, your past shaped the way you are today, so will the end of your relationship. In which manner it will shape you, well, that’s up to you. But consider, if you want to have a healthy relationship with someone else in the future, you’ll have to let go of the bad memories connected with this one. Holding on to bitterness isn’t worth sacrificing your joy!

6. Understand the meaning of forgiveness

Forgiveness is key. To forgive means to pardon, to set free, to cancel a debt, to let go of something. To truly forgive your ex, you have to let go of resentment. That doesn’t mean you should minimize the offense as if it never happened. No. It means you let go of the lingering pain, bitterness, and anger so that the offense no longer holds power over your emotions.

What you will find is peace of mind and a sense of freedom. You’re no longer shackled by your wounds. That’s the beautiful thing about forgiveness. It’s not just something you extend to someone else, it liberates you, too!

Everyday Stress or Anxiety? What's The Difference?

When you feel run down, when you worry a lot, when you can’t sleep at night and you feel overwhelmed, the question is: is this the result of everyday stress or are you suffering from an anxiety disorder?

And indeed, the two can be difficult to distinguish from each other.

So, what’s the difference?

Stress and anxiety disorders are closely related.

There are scientific discussions about anxiety disorders. Are they genetic? Is stress the trigger?

Here are some of the main differences between everyday stress and anxiety disorders:

The human stress response

The human stress response is necessary for our survival.

Our system responds to danger by going into the famous ‘fight or flight’ mode. Our hearts start to beat faster, our breath becomes shallow, our digestive and reproductive systems shut down temporarily. We become super-alert and vigilant.

If there is a tiger in the vicinity, we are now best equipped to run away or fight it.

This is what happens in response to everyday stress triggers – triggers that rarely involve a live tiger anymore.

And that’s part of the problem.

The human stress response does enable us to deal with other dangers such as traffic, a difficult boss, and very demanding tasks with a short deadline.

But it is a very crude response to the triggers of the complex and sophisticated lives we now live.

If your symptoms are related to everyday stress, they will arise as the stress response is triggered, and then weaken and eventually disappear as the human relaxation response kicks in, and as the stress naturally dissipates.

Everyday stress is normal. So is everyday relaxation and recovery from stress.

Anxiety disorders

When does the anxiety produce symptoms?

Anxiety disorders produce similar symptoms to everyday stress, but they can have very different triggers.

Anxiety disorder symptoms are triggered by the anticipation of a future threat, real or imagined. Anxiety can produce fear, avoidance behaviors, and are associated with thoughts and beliefs that perpetuate the anxiety.

With Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the anxiety symptoms are triggered almost at random. Anything that upsets the patient’s routine or sense of calm can set off an episode of anxiety.

What is the timeline?

Anxiety disorders are diagnosed when anxiety symptoms persist for a specific period of time, depending on the type of anxiety, or for more days than not over a period of six months. A psychotherapist or psychiatrist can assist you in determining if your anxiety has reached a point where psychotherapeutic or pharmaceutical interventions are warranted.

How intense are the symptoms?

Another important aspect of anxiety disorders is the intensity of the symptoms.

Are they mild and manageable? Can you quite easily recover from them or do they disrupt your everyday life? Or do you feel caught in your anxiety with no way out?

If your anxiety seriously affects your ability to live and work, then you are probably suffering from an anxiety disorder. The same is true if your anxiety makes you feel hopeless and helpless or if you have frequent panic attacks that make it impossible for you to lead a normal life. If you have suicidal thoughts, you immediately need to seek help.

How do you get out of it?

Everyday anxiety is a very good reason to seek professional counseling. Your counselor can help you find solutions that will make your life less stressful and will put you in charge when you are dealing with those everyday situations that cause stress.

If you think you might suffer from an anxiety disorder, get a diagnosis from a mental health professional. There are many treatment options available, including medications and psychotherapy, and many people can manage their anxiety disorder very successfully.

Whatever you do, don’t spend your energy and time worrying about this.

These conditions deserve your attention and they can be treated.

Don’t add unnecessary suffering to your already stressful life!

6 Unique Ways Women With ADHD Struggle (And What To Do About It)

Of course, we all experience occasions of forgetfulness, misplacing something important in a messy house or running late for appointments. But for many women, these challenges are daily events that actually impact their lives. They struggle with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

What makes it even harder? Women with adult ADHD often face several unique challenges that men with the disorder typically don’t have to contend with.

What are they and what can you do about it? Let’s see:

The Unique Struggles of Women with Adult ADHD

1. Failure of early diagnosis

Unfortunately, women with adult ADHD typically remain undiagnosed much longer than men. This may be due to the fact that symptoms in girls can be more subtle and easily missed than those in boys. They usually seem less hyperactive in a typical sense. But in reality, they’re often very frustrated by seemingly simple tasks.

What to do about it: Parents, educators, and psychiatrists need to be more vigilant, paying attention to ADHD symptoms in girls, who may otherwise be well-behaved and high-achieving.

2. Consequences of skepticism and stigma

While women with adult ADHD may seem extroverted and animated, they often feel labeled as being scatterbrained, unreliable, willful, lazy, incompetent, or unmotivated. This can cause emotional challenges, like feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem, anxiety, or depression.

What to do about it: Actively seek out people who appreciate the best in you and focus on the positive. Don’t put yourself in situations that will confront you with impossible expectations and negative comparisons.

3. Impact of hormones

Monthly hormone fluctuations can intensify symptoms in women with adult ADHD due to an increase of estrogen. But when a woman enters perimenopause, a strong decrease of estrogen can be just as devastating and even cause extreme forgetfulness.

What to do about it: Talking to your primary care physician and/or psychiatrist about managing the destabilizing effects of fluctuating hormones is critical. You may need extra help in handling PMS and menopausal symptoms.

4. Lack of support

For women with adult ADHD, the greatest struggle may be trying to fulfill the duties expected by their family and society in general – the role of caretaker. Often they are the support system for everybody else but lack access to a support system for themselves.

What to do about it: Give yourself a break and stop expecting the impossible of yourself. Educate your partner and family about the effects of ADHD. Ask them to handle some household matters, including taking the children away from the home without you at times.

5. Dual roles – dual stress

The dual roles of a full-time career and being a wife and/or mother can intensify stress tremendously. Problems with routine matters, such as buying groceries, making dinner, or replying to emails may lead to being overwhelmed and exhausted for women with adult ADHD.

What to do about it: Eliminate or delegate some of the things you do yourself – at home or at work. Seek advice from a therapist on parenting, relationships, or career matters that takes your ADHD into account.

6. Single parenting

Being a single parent adds additional stress for women with adult ADHD. Since the mother most often remains the primary caretaker for children, single parenting adds a huge burden to women with adult ADHD.

What to do about it: Try to approach any difficulties with acceptance and good humor. You’ll have more energy for the positive things in your life. Simplify your life and reduce some of the commitments you or your children have. Also, recognize your limitations, ask grandparents or friends to help out.

Certainly, while both men and women with adult ADHD face obstacles, the lives of women may be impacted in different ways. But with diligent effort and patience, you can learn to successfully cope with emotional challenges, social expectations, hormonal fluctuations, or single parenting.

Waves of Emotion: Women, What Do You Do? Ride Them or Run?


What a beautiful gift. They deepen and enrich our lives like nothing else. They can take us to the highest heights – but also to the lowest lows.

Just like the waves of the sea, the waves of emotion deep within us are in constant motion. They calm when the winds of life send you a gentle breeze, and they agitate when a turbulent storm rushes in. Feelings may wash ashore and simply wet your feet, or they can crash so hard that you could lose your emotional balance.

So, what do you do when waves of emotion swell and head straight for you? Should you turn and run? Or ride them out?

Ride or Run?

The problem with running from a wave is that it will often pursue and overtake you.

As with literal waves, getting pulled under and tossed about by your feelings is a scary thing. The harder you fight the current, the more exhausted you become.

By the time the wave ebbs and you pick yourself up again, another one is on its way.

As time goes on, for lack of strength, you can’t run as fast and you get pulled under more often. You find yourself repeating this cycle over and over. In the end, if you don’t make a change, you may even drown.

There is a better way to handle waves of emotion.

Riding them out allows you to stay on top, in control, and not be pulled under – no matter how enormous the swell may become. And you can learn how to do it!

How to Ride Your Waves of Emotions

We don’t have an inborn instinct about how to manage our feelings and achieve emotional balance. Being able to identify and manage our emotions is a learned skill:

1. Observe the waves – The first thing you’ll have to do is get a feel for your waves of emotion. Watch them coming and going, learn to name them, and recognize the differences.

2. Understand their source – Emotions just don’t magically appear out of the blue for no reason. You have to figure out what triggers them. Sometimes, their source isn’t very obvious. You have to investigate and dig deeper, exploring them without judging before you ever react.

3. Accept them – You can’t stop the waves of emotions. They’ll continue coming, wave after wave. It’s how you’re wired. Therefore, accept that each one of your feelings is valid. It tells you something about yourself. Once you accept that they’re part of you, you can simply let them flow and respect how you feel in each and every moment of your life.

4. Harness their power – Emotions have enormous power – tap into it! Even negative emotions can teach you something. For example, anger provides you energy and motivation. Fear affords you alertness and endurance. Harnessing their energy slows down the waves of emotion. You no longer fear them because you can use them to your own advantage. You are no longer helplessly at their mercy.

Achieving Emotional Balance

Remember, with every emotion, you have a choice of responses. Ignore it, explore it, or fight it. Of course, every option carries a suggestion with it for how you could react. But you don’t have to act on those suggestions. There are always more ways to respond. It’s completely your choice.

Look at your choices and ask yourself: Is how I want to react going to help me or hurt me?

Think about it carefully – observe, understand, and accept. And then pick the reaction that will allow you to harness the energy from your emotions to come up with a positive solution for yourself. One that will benefit you long-term and help you achieve emotional balance.

Counseling Questions? What You Need to Know About Professional Help

It’s important to get your basic counseling questions answered if you’ve never seen a mental health professional before. After all, the more you understand, the better the counseling experience will be for you.

Let’s shed some light on the topic and consider a few different counseling questions.

How Does Counseling Work?

Most counseling sessions take place once a week for approximately one hour. Sessions are completely confidential and may continue as long as you and your counselor feel they’re helpful.

Counseling requires hard work in the form of self-exploration, personal insight, and honesty with yourself and with your therapist. Counseling is a partnership between you and your therapist.

The therapist assimilates what you tell them and determines how the pieces come together. Your counselor will be objective and help you to identify areas of your life to focus on in therapy, and the right therapeutic approach to help you. During your appointments, your counselor may teach you coping and problem-solving skills to utilize outside your appointment times. While they’re often very candid, your therapist will never make any decisions for you.

You must be completely open and honest about your feelings, experiences, thoughts, and actions with your therapist. Commitment to the counseling process and trust in your therapist are important keys for progress and recovery. It’s imperative that you consider your counselor’s feedback carefully and practice what you’ve learned in your sessions in your daily life.

What Types of Therapies Are Common?

Individual Therapy – Sessions are held with one individual at a time. They normally focus on exploring negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and making positive changes.

Couples Therapy/Marriage Counseling – Sessions are held with two people who are in a committed relationship. It often focuses on teaching how to handle challenges, improve communication, overcome an incident of infidelity, parent cooperatively and effectively, and have a happier and more satisfying relationship.

Family Therapy – Sessions are held with more than one member of a family at the same time. It usually focuses on resolving conflict and improving interactions between individuals.

Group Therapy – Sessions are guided by a professional therapist and are held with a group of peers that work on the same problem, such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse.

What Types of Mental Health Professionals Are There?

All mental health professionals are licensed, regulated, and governed by a professional licensing board, and they must abide by and adhere to a strict code of ethics for their profession. The terms “counselor,” “therapist,” and “psychotherapist,” may be used interchangeably in most mental health professions. Here is a brief description of the most common mental health professional designations:

Counselor/Therapist – An LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist), and an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), are individuals who have completed a minimum of a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or a related field. They provide professional counseling, psychotherapy, and mental health services to individuals, couples, families, and groups.

Social worker – A person who has a minimum of a master’s degree in social work or a related field. An LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) is trained to help families dealing with various social issues, but they are also skilled and trained in providing mental health and counseling services to individuals and couples. 

Psychologist – A person with a graduate degree in psychology who is licensed to work with patients who need mental health therapy. Most psychologists hold a doctorate (PhD) in their professional discipline. A psychologist may hold a master’s degree, and work under the supervision of a psychologist holding a PhD. Like LPCs, LMFTs, and LCSWs, psychologists provide counseling and psychotherapy to individuals, couples, families, and groups. Many psychologists are trained to provide specific mental health testing that they deem necessary to help diagnose specific conditions. They often work cooperatively with other mental health professionals (LPCs, LMFTs, and LCSWs) to provide needed testing for their clients.

Psychiatrist – A medical doctor (MD) whose medical specialty and training focuses on mental and emotional disorders. They are licensed to prescribe medication, and they also may provide psychotherapy. Often, psychiatrists will provide medication management for a patient, and work in coordination with the LPC, LMFT, LCSW, or psychologist who is providing counseling for the patient. Psychologists, LPCs, LMFTs, and LCSWs often refer their clients to a psychiatrist if they determine the client needs medication for their condition.

How Do You Choose Which Mental Health Professional to See?

Choosing the right mental health professional for you is a lot like finding a primary care physician, or other professional. You may know someone who can refer you to a therapist they really like. If not, search online for therapists in your area who work with your particular concern or mental health diagnosis, or ask your insurance provider for a list of therapists they work with. Contact the therapist and ask questions about their areas of specialty and training, how much they charge per session, do they accept your insurance, and other questions you have. Many therapists will offer a free consultation over the phone or in their office. A consultation gives you the opportunity to see how comfortable you are talking to them. Once you see them in person, or have a phone conversation, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about choosing a therapist that is a good fit for you.

Keep in mind that not all therapists and patients match up. You may have to find someone else if the first therapist you talk to doesn’t fit your needs, for whatever the reason. But don’t give up. Your mental and emotional health is worth finding the right fit just for you.

Negative Comparisons and Low Self-Esteem? How Women Can Nix Them!

At times, demands and perceptions from external sources can cause negative comparisons to creep into your thoughts and disturb your inner peace. It’s an alluring, but dangerous, emotional trap that only makes you feel jealous, inferior, and inadequate. This can easily lead your self-esteem to a new, all-time low.

Ruminating that someone is better looking or slimmer, makes more money, is higher up on the career ladder, has a happier marriage or a more caring partner, is a better parent, or has a lot more friends is like fighting a losing battle. There are an infinite number of comparisons you can make with an unending number of people. The Internet and social media have now driven the possibilities for negative comparison off the scale!

So, what’s the point?

Be Aware of Negative Comparisons and How It Affects Your Self-Esteem

It’s truly a shame that we ever allow ourselves to make comparisons with others. You never remain objective! Have you noticed?

Frequently, you end up comparing the worst of what you know about yourself with the best of what you presume about another person. How is that fair?

What you perceive to be true is usually what the other person lets you see. It’s an edited version of what they truly are. They’re not going to reveal their negative thoughts and emotions to the world. They will put their positive side on display. What happens is that you’re looking at a distorted and inaccurate picture when you compare yourself to others.

How could you possibly live up to that idealized image you have of them? In fact, chances are even they can’t live up to it!

Nix the urge to make negative comparisons and focus your energy on raising your self-esteem. It will free you from this unfruitful struggle and help you grow into your authentic self.

How to Raise Your Self-Esteem

Accept your imperfections and embrace your uniqueness.

Remember: nobody is perfect! We’re all human. We all have flaws, weaknesses, and difficulties. When you set reasonable expectations, become compassionate with yourself, and accept yourself for who you are, you truly start growing.

Stop labeling and limiting yourself.

Society may have a specific definition of success for a woman, but you don’t have to let yourself be pressed into that mold. Instead of succumbing to limiting, negative self-talk, visualize and affirm that you’re confident and strong. Step outside the box society dictates. Give yourself permission to try out new things and make some mistakes along the way.

Become aware of your own successes.

Think about what you have and have accomplished, not what you lack or haven't done. Make a list of your past achievements to motivate yourself to pursue more of your dreams and goals. You have unique gifts that allow you to make valuable contributions to the world around you. Nurture these strengths and enjoy doing what you do well.

Find inspiration without comparing yourself.

Learning from others is not comparing yourself to them. Talk with those you admire and ask them questions. Read about those who have achieved what you would like to achieve. As you learn from those you admire, do it with the right attitude and motive. Don’t let their success intimidate you. Don’t let it blind you to your own self-worth. Let it inspire you to reach your dreams. Most likely, you will find that the people you admire were vulnerable and courageous, took risks, and made many mistakes in their journeys to success.

Remember there will always be someone better.

When you realize that you are going down the road of negative comparisons again, change focus. Increase your positive self-talk, talk to a supportive and trustworthy friend, recite some positive affirmations, or read something inspiring.

Faulty perceptions, negative comparisons, and thinking that someone else is much better than you, just wastes time and energy. Focus on your own goals and motivations and commit to growing a little each day.

Above all, strive to be the best possible version of yourself – not someone else!

Shedding Should and Must: Demand Less, Get Real, and Love Well

You should be further ahead than you are right now.

You should dress better and weigh less.

You should suck it up and smile more.

You must make some changes if you ever expect to be happy.

How did it feel to read those statements?

Did you feel your body tense? Did a frisson of tension, or agreement, or even helplessness run through you?

Don’t worry. You are not alone. Too many of us really don’t know how to think any other way.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

First of all, the should and must barrage we impose on ourselves is a form of cognitive distortion. Therefore, the way we see and think about ourselves seems true but is not really accurate or helpful at all. Thus, we make the mistake of thinking we must box ourselves into doing what we perceive is right and best, rather than focus on our needs and wants.

What happens when we indulge this distortion?

Life gets hard and inflexible. All the shoulds and musts we carry around have a way of making us forget we have valid choices. In fact, you might even tell yourself you shouldn’t even want to exercise them.

Think about it, how many times have you chastised yourself or criticized your own actions or desires, reminding yourself of the multiple things you should do, say, think or become?

More specifically, how many times have you believed that:

  • good people should be focused on predetermined activities, parameters, and goals for happiness and contentment?
  • successful people must rise through work and society. They should be smart, funny, sexy, loving, well-liked, and so on and so on?
  • moral people must be pure-minded or like-minded and increasingly perfect as the years go by?

How many times have you felt you failed to meet your own list of internal demands? 

Unfortunately, should and must can take over pretty easily if we aren’t aware. To break free, intentional exploration of our thoughts, wants, and relationships is important. Consider the following ideas for relief:

1. Shed your “Shoulds” and Learn to Demand Less:

Run your list of shoulds mentally. Right now.

What should you be? Thinner, healthier, younger, friendlier, smarter, funnier…? Basically, you “should” be a better version of yourself, right? Sadly, you tell yourself all the time that you’re just not getting life right. That you’re just not good enough. 

To combat such thoughts, empower yourself. Notice should and must when they come up. Practice mindful awareness. In addition, intentionally respond to the demands you place on yourself with self-compassion.

Refuse to be bossed around by musts. Get curious. Ask yourself:

  • “Is this something I really want?
  • “Why do I believe I should do this?”
  • “What am I afraid might happen if I go my own way?”

You may find that the answers to your questions uncover some unexplored thoughts and emotions. Thus, you may be inspired to change your response. Or you may simply feel more in tune with your wants and motivations.

2. Explore your “Musts” in an effort to get real with yourself and your world

The primary problem with should and must?

That the things we should do, must have, and ought to become just don’t have much to do with who we really are.

“Shoulding” your life and relationships limits and polices your experiences unfairly. And, consequently, leaves you with few assurances that you are fine the way you are.

However, with the help of a compassionate counselor, you can learn to identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts and behavior. Time with a good listener is extremely beneficial as you get know your authentic self and take action.

You can live your life without shoulds directing you. Learning to trust yourself will be key.

3. Minimize Should and Must to maximize your ability to live and love well

Self-compassion, self-discovery, and authenticity are gifts that accompany your willingness to shed your shoulds. In addition, you may find that you are more able to invite loved ones to a more honest, accepting and compassionate relationship with you.

Also, feeling less compelled to live up to outside demands, your tendency to control others with a list of your own shoulds and musts may lessen. Sensitivity and awareness will extend beyond yourself and open your mind to what others need and want, too. As a result, loving yourself and others can be a much more meaningful experience.

Are You Ready To Live Free?

All in all, it’s true that should and must are often sneaky, unforgiving taskmasters. But, hopefully, now you can start to believe your life is bigger than you thought… and entirely yours to reimagine.

So, go ahead, gather some solid support and get to work.

Shed your should and must habit. Change your mind. You’re ready.

After Divorce: From Finances to Kids, Take These Steps to Thrive

There’s no doubt that divorce causes dramatic changes in one’s life. It’s an emotionally trying and exhausting experience.

After divorce, some of the biggest challenges stem from changes in financial status, the need to go back to work, living on one income, and taking care of children. It’s easy to feel lost and confused when faced with these types of repercussions.

But you don’t have to throw up your hands and surrender.

From Finances to Kids – Learn to Thrive After Divorce

It’s not pleasant to handle the changes divorce brings, but it’s also not impossible. You have to have the desire and willingness to take control of your situation and work diligently to stabilize your life.

Step 1: Handling Changes in Financial Status – Plan for the Future

It’s important not to think of child support or alimony as income. Child support eventually ends, and if you remarry, alimony payments end too. Plus, even if you were rewarded “permanent maintenance,” it doesn’t guarantee anything. Your ex-spouse may retire or be unable to work.

Consider your financial future carefully. Openly communicate and cooperate with your ex-spouse and enlist the help of legal and financial advisors. Avoid using your credit card to buy things you think will soothe your emotional stress after divorce. Getting into more debt will only hurt you in the long run.

Step 2: Living on One Income – Create a Budget

After  a divorce, you may not be able to do all the things you used to do. Trying to maintain the lifestyle you had before your divorce will just cause you stress. Instead, develop a clear picture of your budget, demonstrate self-control, and stick with it.

First, make a list of all your sources of income. Then, make a list of all your monthly spending. Next, think about which expenses you could cut, especially luxury items and regular payments. While you may not want to disrupt your children’s lives, you may need to consider whether moving to a less expensive home or renting might be a viable and more affordable option. Lastly, call all your creditors and ask them to lower your payments.

Step 3: Going Back to Work – Learn New Skills

It may not be easy to go back to work after divorce, especially if you haven’t worked for a while. Consider taking classes to brush up on job-related skills, working from home, finding ways to make good use of your talents, or seeking out companies that would hire and train you at their expense. Also, don’t just think about jobs that you’ve done before. Working in a different field may give you more free time or flexible hours and could be better for you and your children. Make sure you put some time into researching opportunities.

Tell family, friends, associates, and former co-workers that you’re looking for work. Then, update your resume and include all your skills and volunteer work. Practice for interviews, dress for success. Speak calmly and professionally. It may seem daunting, but a job with sufficient income will boost your finances, self-confidence, and happiness.

Step 4: Caring for Children – Consider Their Needs

After a divorce, children can be emotional and unsure of what life will be like now that their parents aren't together any longer. More than ever before, your children need your time and love to ensure them that you still care for them. They also need structure, boundaries, and consistent discipline to keep their lives stable. Depending on their ages, they could also learn more responsibility by keeping rooms picked up, taking out the trash, doing laundry and dishes, or preparing a meal. And, finally, they need you to be an example in showing respect to their other parent. Therefore, don’t put them in the middle or speak poorly about your ex-spouse.

Whatever the challenges after divorce, remember that setting priorities, having a plan, and consistently sticking to it can help you thrive despite any difficulties you may have after divorce.

Dating After Divorce for Women: Ways to Know You're Ready

Wondering about dating after divorce?

What is dating after divorce for women really like?

And… are you ready for it?

Other people will have a lot of advice. (When you’re divorced, there’s always plenty of advice on how to meet someone.)

“Come on, get back into dating right now,” your friends might say. Some popular psychology books, however, will tell you that have to wait “at least two years.”

Like all other advice, it is based on the life experience and belief systems of the advice-giver. But, your experience might be different. Rigid timetables and over-impulsive decisions both don’t work very well.

How do you know when you are ready for dating after divorce? Here are three things to consider:

1. How do you feel about your previous relationships/your ex?

Hint: If your previous relationship still occupies a lot of space in your head, if you find yourself thinking of your ex (in good ways and bad) several times a day, it might be too soon to think about a new relationship.

Be sure you have processed your feelings about the loss of your marriage before dating again. Trusted friends who listen to you, support you, and don't judge you can help you process the loss. Seeing a qualified therapist to help you work through your feelings and what you want next for your life, can provide sound and objective assistance as you navigate this new time in your life.

Getting divorced is a grieving process, even if you were the one who wanted to end the marriage. You grieve the loss of the hope you had for your relationship, the loss of your partner, the loss of the marriage, and the end of an important phase of your life.

The grieving process takes as long as it takes, and it is different for each person. You can’t hurry it up. There are no shortcuts. You also don’t need to trap yourself in someone else’s somewhat artificial time frame for grief. Some women start their grieving process before separating from their spouse, others before the divorce is finalized. Some stay in a state of shock for a long time and only begin to grieve much later.

Be kind to yourself and pay attention to your real feelings. Don’t feel pressured to fulfill the expectations of others. You get to make your own decisions. Trust and believe in yourself and what is right for you.

2. How do you feel about yourself?

So, you are single now.

What’s that like? Maybe it's been a long time since you have had a chance to focus on your relationship with yourself.

Who are you now? What is your identity? Is there any fall-out from your breakup in terms of self-image and self-worth? Do you need to heal and become confident again?

This can be a good time to reassess who you are right now, what you like about yourself, what you might like to improve and strengthen in yourself, and who you want to become in the future.

Your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship in your life. Being single, and being happy being single, is a strong foundation from which you can live your life to the fullest. When you know yourself well, you know what you want from life, including what you want from a possible new relationship when you are ready.

3. How do you feel about change?

Are you looking forward to falling in love again?

Are you looking forward to sharing your life with someone different?

Are you ready to share emotional and physical intimacy at some point, and begin a new partnership?

First, test your readiness for change in the following smaller, more personal ways:

Are you forming new friendships?

Are you exploring new hobbies? Are you exploring interests that may have been side-lined before?

Do you sometimes look at a man and feel a little bit of attraction?

Are you ready for the actual dating process?

There are many options for dating after divorce for women.

Online dating is very popular now, but if you were married for a long time, meeting someone new via a dating site may be uncomfortable for you. Meeting someone new “the old-fashioned way” through common friends and activities can be great fun, but maybe you need to create new social networks first.

Finally, are you ready for setbacks?

Dating after divorce for women can be exciting and enjoyable, but it can also be challenging. Dating means people are looking for that “good match” and testing each other out. It would be nice if the ideal new partner suddenly appeared when you are ready but, in reality, you will do what everyone else does – do it all step-by-step and by trial-and-error.

If you feel too fragile, if a few small rejections make you question your self-worth, then maybe you are not ready to date. That's fine. Give yourself as much time as you need to feel stronger and confident.

Dating after divorce can be complicated.

But really, there is no obligation to date if you don’t want to.

You can stay single for as long as you like.

You can dip in and out of the dating scene.

You can try different ways of dating and explore what you really want from a relationship.

Remember this: It's YOUR life. The most important thing to remember after divorce is to be kind to yourself. Have compassion for yourself. When you are ready to jump back into the dating game, you will be in a position to know what you want and you will have the confidence to make decisions that are right for you.

Life After Divorce for Women: Your First Holiday Season

Divorce is an emotionally complex experience. While for many women there is some relief at ending an impossible or even abusive relationship, the dominant experience is a sense of loss.

Loss of the partner, loss of the family unit, and — when it comes to the holidays — loss and need for readjustment in life after divorce for women really comes home to you.

Holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, and Thanksgiving are supposed to celebrate family time and there is no way you can avoid the fact that your family is different now.

But the first holiday season is also an opportunity to start a new life after divorce for women. Here are a few useful survival tips from those who have walked this path before you.

No forced cheer

Don’t be surprised if you feel sad or angry at times — you are still going through the grieving process. And like everyone who is grieving, you need to acknowledge your real feelings. You have every right not to let others push or manipulate you into ‘forced cheerfulness.’ This, of all times, is the time to listen to yourself.

A positive new holiday experience for and with your children

If you have children, the best survival method for you and them is to take the new and perhaps painful challenges of holiday time suddenly shared (or split up) between two parental homes and the negotiations with your ex-partner and transform them into new and positive traditions.

Take the stress out of sharing

As long as the sharing arrangements are fair and in accordance with the terms of your divorce, don’t make the negotiations about the details an additional source of stress. Don’t make your children feel that they are in any way part of your problems. Instead, make exciting new plans.

If, for example, your partner ‘has’ the children for December 25, don’t insist on breaking up the celebrations and instead create your own main event on one of the other 12 days of Christmas. Why not? The children will enjoy it.

And while it is important not to avoid your own feelings, it is also important not to over-involve your children in what may be perfectly understandable jealousy and resentment towards your Ex and perhaps his new partner. Use this opportunity to create good boundaries that help to protect your children.

Alone on the big days

But whether you have children or not, being alone on one of the big days of the family holidays is a real challenge in life after divorce for women.

Turkey for one? Listening to holiday music and crying? It can feel as if the whole world is celebrating together and you are the only one who is excluded.

Here are a few suggestions how to survive these days and celebrate them in a new way:

  1. You may be alone today but you are probably not literally ‘out in the cold.’ So why not spend this day helping others who are? Many charities have big events on the main holidays where you will be very welcome to volunteer. You may have that shared dinner after all, but with a whole new family who really needs you.
  2. Accept an invitation. Not everyone flies home for the holidays. Sometimes, circles of friends celebrate together, either at home or in a restaurant. But make sure they are positive people.
  3. Do something special for yourself alone. If your city is even moderately multi-cultural, there will be opportunities to have a spa day or go on a mini holiday with creative or sports activities – preferably in a group of singles or with female friends.
  4. If you have more time to yourself, why not go on vacation to a different country, join a working holiday as a foreign volunteer, or sign up to learn a new skill.

What all these suggestions have in common is that life after divorce for women is not just a struggle for survival, you are laying the foundations for a whole new chapter of your life story.

One day you will look back on this first year and remember how many of your new traditions, skills, and friendships originated right here, right now.

You Never Imagined You Would Be Divorced - Now What?

From getting swept off your feet to being swept out of the way, an unforeseen divorce can be the most destabilizing and traumatizing experience you’ve ever had. It changes everything.

Here are some things to consider, avoid, and do, in order to come out of it stronger and taller.

SUPPORT. Being self-reliant and confident is important in every aspect of life, but support is crucial. From friends, family, support groups, and therapists, there is an infinite source of help out there, ready to guide you through the tough times.

Divorce will raise all types of emotions and fears you might not have been prepared for, but with the proper loving support, you will be able to face these challenges, deal with them, and move forward.

REFRAIN from the “I’ll show you this was a mistake” attitude. Whether tactics to win him back, or resentment and grudges, the games often played during and after divorce rarely lead to happy endings.

The best thing you can do, even if this feels like a heart-wrenching injustice, is to accept the situation, and re-focus all that energy toward taking care of yourself and planning your new future.

WHAT IFs. It might take years for you to stop rehashing all the details of what went wrong, or how you could have saved your marriage. But these thoughts are not reality — they are holding you back. Revisit the past only to learn about yourself and your mistakes, nothing else.

Stay in the moment, as best you can.

DON’T BE A VICTIM. Even if it feels like you are being victimized, your mindset while facing this life-changing event will greatly determine your success at getting back on your feet.

Feeling sorry for yourself might help you prove a point to a friend, or get a good cry on someone’s shoulder, but it would be best to empower yourself instead and focus on moving forward.

FIND YOURSELF. See this as an opportunity to reinvent yourself. Find new hobbies and activities. Find your strengths, your core values, and beliefs. Revisit everything you might have shoved to the side or neglected while married.

IMPULSIVE DECISIONS. If you feel a sudden rush to do something eccentric or out of character, do yourself a favor and sit on it for a day or two.

When emotions are running high, you need to slow down and create space in your thoughts and actions in order to live your emotions fully and move slowly in the right direction.

DANGEROUS BAND-AIDS. Alcohol, drugs, sleeping pills, many of these could at first seem perfect to help you cope. The reality is that any of these substances will numb your pain temporarily, only to bring it back with a boost once sober, creating a dangerous cycle of dependence.

While one drink can be pleasant, remember you are more vulnerable than usual at this time.

EMPTINESS. The routine, noises, and activities suddenly stop. You can even find yourself missing the very things that used to bother you the most.

Humans have a tendency to thrive on familiarity. Try to accept that these feelings are part of the process and they will pass.

CHILDREN. Raising children is a lifetime contract. Married or not, you will have to interact and raise your children together.

Avoid putting your children in a situation of having to choose one parent over another, or feel guilty to love you both. Children should be able to continue a healthy relationship with both parents.

You will teach your children the invaluable life lesson that even if the world crumbles around them unexpectedly, they can resolve it peacefully.

Most importantly take care of yourself. Life as you knew it came and went, but therein lies your opportunity to grow stronger and healthier and slowly build a better tomorrow. Every step counts, even the occasional setback.

The one person you should always be able to count on is yourself.