Ellie Holbrook, MA, LPC, RYT200 is…


…A Licensed Professional Counselor:  Ellie counsels women, men, adolescents, and professionals from all walks of life. She is committed to the well-being of her clients and dedicated to helping them meet their unique individual life and wellness goals as they optimize their personal satisfaction in life. As a coach, Ellie specializes in the art of positive living.


…A Registered Yoga Teacher:  Ellie is a certified yoga instructor, registered with the Yoga Alliance at the 200 hour level.  She is currently teaching at the Yoga Loft in Willmar, MN.


…A DONA-trained birth doula: Ellie is a DONA-trained birth doula. She is enthusiastic about childbirth, and passionate about supporting expecting women and their families.


No Need To Explain

September 10th, 2014

Several weeks ago, I posted an article that I had happened across addressing our “need” to explain or apologize for who we are and what we do, despite the fact that these explanations and apologies are not at all necessary.

And even while this is an unnecessary expenditure of energy, it seems that most of us have fallen into this trap a time or two throughout our lives in an attempt to help people understand where we are coming from.

Yet, in reality, we owe these explanations and apologies to no one. Especially when we feel self-assured in our life choices. So, the next time you feel compelled to “explain” or “apologize” for yourself in such a way, remember that you do not owe this to anyone for anything.

And, in particular, you do not owe anyone an explanation or an apology for…


Whether you are cohabiting, crashing on a friends’ couch, renting a transition home, or paying entirely too much for the roof over your head, you do owe anyone an explanation for where you lie your head down at night or why. If you are fully aware of your living situation and why you are making that choice, know that it is yours to make.


Because we are all unique individuals, we all have differing beliefs, priorities, and values. And more often than not, some of these things will not agree with the people that matter most to you. Yet even so, you have come to hold these things close to your heart for a reason. And for those reasons alone, you need not explain yourself.


Simply stated, we do not have to apologize for the things that we do not feel sorry for.


Each one of us has a different need for solitude and a different need for socialization. Neither is right nor wrong, and both are natural and necessary.


We need not agree with everything everyone believes. Likewise, we need not share these opinions if and when we do not feel compelled to do so. Do not compromise or water down your own personal convictions for the sake of conformity and pacifism. Rather, learn to disagree or remain silent with acceptance and grace.


Learn to find a way to politely disagree, decline, or opt out of something when you feel the need to, and you will find peace. Remember that asserting and advocating on your own behalf is no more and no less than an act of self-care.


You physical appearance is a combination of nature and nurture, genetics and lifestyle, and it should not be made a determination of your self-worth.


Unless you are requiring others to eat just as you do, you do not need to explain or apologize for your diet and food choices any more than you need to explain or apologize for any other preference you have or the other functions of your body. Let it simply be a matter of feeling good.

If you are your partner are both consenting adults, let the discussion of your sex life end here.


I have found that many of our personal and professional choices are a reflection of “where we are right now”, and these are choices that we make for various reasons at various times throughout our life. If you know why you are doing what you are doing, let that suffice.


Single, married, divorced, or otherwise. This is your choice, as determined by you and your truest self, regardless of your relationship status, and because of that, you need not explain this status to anyone else that is not involved.

Ellie Holbrook, MA, LPCC, RYT200
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Yes and No

August 13th, 2014

As August fades into September, and summer into fall, I often find myself thinking about the upcoming school year and finding a renewed focus on the needs of my children and the children that I work with. Today, as I reflected on our summer and began to look forward to the months ahead, I could not help but to realize that we do not have very many lazy summer days left, and I found myself day-dreaming about how I would like to maximize the time that we do have left together before school begins. In doing so, I began reflecting on parenting in general, and in particular, the things that we say “yes” to and the things that we say “no” to…

…As a mother first, and a therapist second, I have always believed that children need to hear the word “no”. Children need limits. Children need structure. They need to learn to self-regulation. They need to be taught to appreciate the importance of positive and negative consequences in life. And as parents and care providers, it is our job to instill these values and help them learn such priceless lessons.

Yet, as a therapist, and especially as a parent, I also believe that children need to hear the word “yes” just as often as, if not more than, they need to hear the word “no”. Children need to hear that, yes, they are good and they are loved. They need to be told now and then, that yes, we will play with them and do what they want to do. Yes, we have time and no, you do not need to hurry. They need to hear that, yes, their feelings are valid. Their questions deserve answers and the fact that they are right now and then needs to be affirmed. Children need to know that it is ok to act their age, be human, and be a kid, and they need to feel free and be encouraged to be themselves.

Just as much as children need limits, structure, discipline, and regulation, it is equally important that they be given stability and security, validation and reassurance, support and encouragement, and unconditional love. And really, we as adults, are no different, are we?

So today, if you are a parent or you have children in your life, I would like to simply reflect on how you interact with these beautiful beings. Ask yourself what lessons this interaction reinforces. Think about what balance currently exists in these children’s lives, and ask yourself what they need more of from the world, and what do they need less of? And most importantly, do not underestimate the influence that you might have on these amazing creatures.


Ellie Holbrook, MA, LPC, RYT200

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Does This Even Matter?

July 16th, 2014

Over the years that I have written this column, I have often spoken to the importance of maintaining “perspective”. www.teststarter.com
In doing so, I have stated that our perspective on worldly issues has the power to transform, or at the very least, influence our

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lives in very profound ways. Yet, not surprisingly, maintaining an objective, insightful perspective is often easier said than done.

So the next time you find yourself struggling to find perspective on a life issue, consider the following fifteen questions…

1. Is this issue going to matter in a year from now? Can you recall your biggest problem one year ago from today? Is it still an issue? More than likely, it is not. If it is, it is obviously important.

2. What aspects of your current life would you be grateful for had you had them five years ago? Isn’t it interesting how some of the most simple things, such as relationships, loved ones, careers, seem to be the greatest blessings?

3. Do you care more about this situation, or just how it “makes you look”? When life delivers a blow to our ego, we often get caught up in our heads and fret over the opinions of others, causing more suffering for ourselves than necessary. When we can release this, we are able to see what really matters most to us. And what doesn’t.

4. Name five things that are basic for your survival that you do not have to think about. Ask yourself if your basic needs are met: Do you have a place to sleep? A meal on the table? Can you pay your rent each month? If not, what things in your life do you need to shift in order to have these things?

5. What would your life be like if you di not have these things? Take a moment just to imagine what this would be life. And take a moment to be grateful for the things that you do have.

6. What is a huge life crisis that is no longer a concern? The answers of this question should highlight nor only the temporary nature of things, but also, the evolution of our perspective as we grow.

7. What compliments have you received lately? Can you even remember? Can you remember the offenses? Embrace the kind words of others and let that highlight your gifts. Discard unkind words, or transform them into something to learn from.

8. What do you have in this moment that you will never have again? Appreciate the fact that while you might not have everything that you want in this moment, for better or for worse, you do have some things that you will never have again.

9. If you could say one thing to yourself of five years ago, what would that be? Take that advice and apply it to today.

10. Do you dislike certain people? What do they have to teach you? And, what do they reflect back to you?

11. Practicality aside, what would make you happier than anything else? What about the answer to this question can be manifested in your life at this time?

12. What do you do when nobody is looking? Who are you when you’re not trying to be something to someone else? When are you most yourself?

13. What of the past year do you actually remember? Most likely, you most clearly recall how a few isolated instances outshine the minute-to-minute moments.

14.Can you recall any times in your life when you thought you were at the point of a break down, when really, it was a break-through? Most likely this will happen again. When it does, give life time to explain itself to us as things unfold.

15. In the grand scheme of it all, does this small instance, this moment, really matter?


Ellie Holbrook, MA, LPC RYT200


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What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet, Love

June 25th, 2014

I was recently moved to reflect on the phenomenon that is love, and the transformational, motivational, and influential force that is it is, regardless of the form that it takes or the relationship it takes place in. In my opinion, love is perhaps the most powerful force in the entire universe. Just think of the impact that its presence and absence has had on your life.

…As you reflect on what this means to you personally, you will likely come to the realization that not only is love a feeling, but it is also a behavior.

With this thought in mind, consider the following behaviors of love, and think about how they have been manifested in your own life, remembering that love, like life, is a practice…

Respect: True love, no matter the form in takes, does not exist without respect. This includes honoring and valuing your loved one, treating them as equal, being considerate, and communicating, verbally and nonverbally, with love and respect in mind.

Kindness: Kindness, of course, takes many forms. It includes, but is not limited to, warmth, helpfulness, comfort, and well-wishes. It involves thoughtfulness, reaching out, and extending oneself with another in mind.

Empathy: Empathy involves demonstrating sensitivity and understanding, and showing an attempt to see things from your loved one’s perspective. It does not equate agreeing with them or relating to them, but having the willingness to considering and validating their experience.

Interest/Connection: Taking to connect, inquire, and share interests is important, as it is an act of bonding, and attending to the innermost aspects of an individual.

Compassion: Compassion, like empathy, conveys sensitivity and understanding and the importance of a loved one’s experience. Compassion is supportive, soothing, and helpful.

Self-control: As humans, we may be tempted to act on our emotions, even when it is in the interest of our relationships not to. This involves the avoidance of taking things out on loved ones, controlling behaviors, speaking mindfully, and acting out of love, rather than getting carried away by other temporary feelings.

Appreciation: It is so important to show that we have appreciation and gratitude for those that we love and all that we do.

Tolerance of Differences: We are all different. We like different things. We do things in different ways. This is okay, and as such, it should be tolerated and respected, at the very least. The melding of two different worlds may take tolerance and balance, but it can most certainly be done so without judgment and hard feelings.

Forgiveness: Forgiveness is a difficult process, as it involves letting go and working through difficult feelings. Yet it is important, as it allows for humility, growth, and progression. Without forgiveness, a relationship is stagnant.

Integrity: Live in accordance with your values, and you will model

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love and everything else that you hold to the highest esteem. When you compromise your integrity, you compromise yourself.

Set yourself aside: Love involves us. But it is not always about us. Rather, it is a melding of individuality and togetherness. As such, it is important to know what is your “me stuff” and what is your “we stuff”. This means checking your ego, insecurities, and hard feelings.

Ellie Holbrook, MA, LPC, RYT200

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And then what?

June 11th, 2014

Some years ago, I wrote a column about a concept I like to refer to as “horrible-izing”. If you do not reca this column, or you are not familiar with the idea of horrible-izing, it can be defined as one’s tendency to focus on the worst of things.www.teststarter.com
For example, a person may be engaging in the act of horrible-izing if they overemphasize the negative side of life. Likewise, those that horrible-ize are those that tend to perseverate, ruminate, and cannot help themselves but to worry about worst possible outcomes, the dreaded “what ifs”, and may even view undesirable situations as the “end of the world”.

If we are honest with ourselves, most of us must admit that we horrible-ize from time to time, particularly when we are feeling anxious about an upcoming situation or have encountered troublesome circumstances. When this happens, we fall into the trap of thinking about how badly things might go, how awful it would be for us if these events actually did occur, and we forget to take it one step further and consider what we might actually do should these things really take place. We might even get so wrapped up in this catastrophic thinking that we convince ourselves that our life might even be forever altered in some devastating way.

With this definition in mind, take a moment to think about something in your life that is upsetting or unsettling to you. Perhaps

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you are facing a transition in a relationship and you are unsure of how to move forward. Perhaps you have committed to something that you are now rethinking. Perhaps you have recently encountered a situation in life that you are unsure of how to handle. Or, perhaps, you tend to experience smaller triggers on a more regular basis and you have become accustomed to feeling reactive, tightly wound, or shaken

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up. Or, maybe, something entirely different has come to mind
Regardless of what came to mind, reflect on how you think about those things, and take a moment to horrible-ize. Think about the worst of the worst, and sit with those thoughts.

As you reflect on your thoughts, I am willing to bet that you stopped short at the worst case scenario, going no further to imagine how you would actually deal with these circumstances or what other alternatives may actually take place. And if that is the case, I would like to challenge you to change your thinking. Rather than focusing on the bad things that could happen, take one step beyond these thoughts and ask yourself, “And then what?” How you might live through and overcome such obstacles? If you tend to horrible-ize, make this your new habit. Rather than obsessing about the possibility of something bad happening, ask yourself how probable it is that your worries come true, and consider how life would actually look should these things happen. How might you live through such terrible circumstances? What would life be like then? And, would it really be so bad? And finally, which of these thought processes would you rather invest your energies in to, remembering that your thoughts and your perspective on life will always be your choice.

Ellie Holbrook, MA, LPC, RYT200


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Pleasers of the People

May 20th, 2014

If we are honest with ourselves, most of us must admit that we care, at least to some extent, that we care about what other people think of us. We want to be liked. We want people to think well of us. Likewise, most of us want to do well for and please other people. We want to touch lives. We

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want to make a difference. And, in my opinion, this is part of being human. As such, I think it is natural that we feel driven to please those that we care about and have a positive impact on the lives of others.

I mean, really think about what a motivating force this truly is. Think about the beautiful work that has been done in this world because of our natural tendency to give a care about other people. It is a good thing, is it not?

…I really think it is. But I also think that this can be too much of a good thing, especially when we become imbalanced and inadvertently cause harm to ourselves or others because of our desire to please everyone at once.

This tendency that I am referring to is most often referred to as “people pleasing”. And if you are a “people pleaser” you know what I mean. You know the moral dilemma you are faced with each and every time you must choose to say “yes” or “no” to someone you care about, including yourself. You know how hard it is to accept the idea that you simply cannot please everyone all the time. Or, perhaps even worse, that not everyone is going to receive you in the way that you want to be received. If you are a “people pleaser”, you are most likely kind, polite, reliable, and a peace-keeper. And, chances are, you are also familiar with feeling stressed, overextended, taken advantage of, highly-sensitive, resentful, lost, and sometimes, inauthentic.

If you are a pleaser-of-the-people in this way, you probably put other people first, even at the detriment of your own well-being. And while that can be admirable and virtuous at times, it is also important that you are able to establish and maintain boundaries for your own well-being.

In fact, not only is this important, but it is also natural

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and healthy. Yet, if you are “people pleaser”, this is much easier said than done.

So, how do you go about re-establishing new patterns within relationships? Consider the following five steps:

1. Address your fears.

Quite often, the desire to please others stems from a deep-rooted fear or wound that deserves attention. Examine this underlying issue, and you will likely find healing.

2. Reflect on your values.

Clarify what is important to you. These priorities will likely become a guiding force that is much stronger than your fears. As such, they will help you determine what is most right for you.

3. Create boundaries.

Remember that boundaries must exist and be respected in every healthy relationship. Know and communicate your limits, and do not be afraid to draw lines.

4. Find a way to say “no.”

You cannot say “yes” to everything all the time. So find a way that is comfortable for you to decline or say “no” to the things that you are aligned with so that you may say “yes” to the things you are. Remember that saying “no” is a skill that becomes easier with practice.

5. Stop apologizing for yourself.

…Especially when it isn’t necessary. You do not owe anyone an apology, nor an explanation, for being true to yourself.

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What is this “Letting Go” you speak of?

April 30th, 2014

In yoga and in therapy, I often find myself using the phrase “let go”. I gently remind and encourage my clients and my students to “let go” of whatever it is that is not serving them in their lives or their practice, in that moment or at that time in their lives.

…And when I use this phrase, and say this to them, I do so with sensitivity, empathy, compassion, and encouragement. I mean it when I say it, and I say it because I know that it can be done. Yet, despite my sincerity and positive intentions, I have to admit that sometimes this phrase rolls off my tongue with such ease that I forget to say more about “letting go”. I forget that “letting go” is often easier said than done.

That is, I forget this until one of my clients or yoga students asks me to elaborate on what it is that I mean. “What do you mean by, ‘letting go’?” they ask. Or “How exactly do I let go? What does that even mean? And, how do I know when I have let go of something?” It is then that I am reminded that, no matter how significant, profound, or life-changing “letting go” might be, it is no simple thing. Rather, it is quite the contrary. For, when we hang on to something, we do so for a reason. And that reason is because whatever it is that we are hanging on to is important to us. So quite naturally, letting go of these things can be difficult. It can be scary. And it is most definitely not easy.

So, then, what is “letting go”?

To define this term, consider the following adaption of a popular anonymous description:

“To let go is not to forget or ignore. To let go does not leave feelings of anger, jealousy, or regret. Letting go is not about winning or losing, nor is it about pride, appearances, or dwelling on the past. Letting go is not suppressing memories, nor hanging on to negative thoughts.Parajumpers Light Long Bear
Letting go does not leave behind emptiness nor sadness, and it is not giving up or giving in. To let go is not about loss, nor does it mean to be defeated. Rather, to let go is to cherish memories. To overcome and to move long and have confidence in the future. It is an opening of the mind and an acceptance of what is. Letting go is learning. It is experiencing. It is growth. It is to have gratitude for all that we have enjoyed, experienced, and endured. To let go is to embrace all that we have. All that we have had. And all that we will gain. It is to know that letting things go also means letting them come. It is having the courage to accept change, to acknowledge the temporary, and the faith and strength to keep moving. Finally, to let go is to look forward, to open a door, to clear a path, and set yourself free from that which does not serve you.


Ellie Holbrook, MA, LPC, RYT200

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Practice, Practice, Practice

April 9th, 2014

“Practice and all is coming.” –K. Pattabhi Jois

In the yogic world, we refer to the act of “doing yoga” as a practice. And it is called a practice for good reason.


For in practice, we recognize that we will never reach perfection. We may become masterful at what we will do, but because we are continuously deepening our practice, we will never master it entirely. Likewise, there will always be something about our practice that is a challenge. For example, while we may have great physical strength, we may struggle with flexibility. Or we may be strong in our poses, but struggle to quiet our minds.

We also call it a practice because in practice, we are not in competition with anyone, including ourselves. There is no final score or an outcome to strive for or attach to. There are no winners, no losers, none that are “better” or “worse” at yoga than others. . Sure, there may be some that more advanced practitioners than others, but this is only because they have been doing the practice longer than those that have just begun. So in practice, we do not focus on being best. Rather, we focus on doing our best, every time we come to our mat.

When practicing yoga, we must also bear in mind that each and every practice will be different for every single person. Some days we will feel strong and execute the poses with strength and grace, while other days we may feel weak, or out of balance. There will be times that our minds are in synch with our movements and the practice is meditative and mentally quiet. And, on the contrary, there will be times that the mental practice of the yoga we are doing is a chaotic struggle. Some days, when we practice, we will fall into the poses with fluid flexibility, while others we are stiff, and sore, and in pain. No practice, mentally or physically, will ever be the same.

And perhaps this is the most important reason we refer to “doing” yoga as a practice. We called it a practice because it is about the process that we are engaged in while we are on our mats. It is about what we are doing in that very moment, how we are doing it, and the intention we have brought into our practice. It is about being mindful, doing our best, and letting certain things come and other things go.

And so it is with life, is it not? Life, more than anything, is a practice. For much like yoga, we never exactly master life. We will excel in some areas of life, but we will never reach perfection. Likewise, for any given reason and in any give way, there will be days that feel good, and days that feel bad. There will be times when our best comes naturally to us, and times that we really struggle. Like yoga, life is not a competition and there is no end goal to attach to. Rather, in life, just as in yoga, it is about the life that we are living from moment to moment, how we are living, and the intention and purpose we manifest in the process of living this beautiful thing called life.



Ellie Holbrook, MA, LPC, RYT200

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Stop It, Already

March 28th, 2014

I often come across To-Do Lists that enumerate the things that I must do in, or add to my already very-full life. And while these lists often shine light upon areas of life that are thirsting for attention, I find that incorporating more into my life is not what I need. Rather, what I need is less. The following is a list to things to start

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Stop spending time with the wrong people. Life is far too short to spend time with the people that drain your energy. Re-evaluate those that do not fulfill or replenish you in some way.

Stop running from your problems. Know that you cannot change what you do not confront, and know that this is not easy nor instantaneous. But the delayed gratification is indeed worth the effort and the wait.

Stop lying to yourself. Let’s be honest. We aren’t really fooling ourselves anyway, are we?

Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. Know the difference between selflessness and self-neglect.

Stop trying to be someone you’re not. Be authentic, or the you that feels most like yourself. And know that this this good

Stop trying to hold onto the past. Let go of the past and instead change your relationship with it Change how it lives within you.

Stop being afraid of mistakes. Mistakes can be inconvenient. But they need be nothing more than that. So, dare, do, and adapt. And use old mistakes propel and guide you, not define you or bring you down.

Stop trying to buy happiness. Happiness does not have a price. Know that your worth is intrinsic, and do not attach a price tag to it.

Stop looking to others for happiness. We cannot offer nor experience what we already do not carry within us.

Stop being idle. Go and do. Go and be. This is called living

Stop waiting to be ready. More often than not, we will never feel quite “ready”. Know when to act, ready or not.

Stop being in relationships for the wrong reasons. Bad company is not a good substitute for loneliness. Choose wisely, and do not force the process. And remember that all relationships have something good to offer, even if it is a hard lesson learned.

Stop competing, and stop being jealous. There will always been someone “better” and you will always be “better” than someone else.

Stop complaining. You are not a victim, and no one is out to get you. The curveballs of life are meant to shift your direction, not derail you.

Stop holding grudges. Hatred is toxic. Especially to the self. Forgiveness is the anecdote. For both the self and others

Stop letting others bring you down. Take the high road so they have a place to step up to. Show them that there is a better way.

Stop explaining yourself. Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe you, anyway.

Stop doing the same things over and over. Or you’ll keep getting the same things over and over. Distance yourself from old patterns and learn.

Stop overlooking small moments. They are bigger than you think.

Stop striving for perfection. Instead, strive for effective

Stop following the path of least resistance. Take the road less traveled by.

Stop saying it’s okay when it isn’t. It is okay to be not-okay sometimes. Rather, sometimes, this is exactly what you need to do in order to pick up the pieces and be okay again.

Stop blaming others. If you blame others for what goes wrong, who gets credit for what goes right? Own your life.

Stop trying to be everything to everyone. This is impossible and it leads to burn out . Narrow your focus and be good at what you do.

Stop worrying. Know when to let go and when to transform that energy into action, and watch the world change.

Stop focusing on what you don’t want. Invest in positive thinking, and you will attract wonderful l things.

Stop being ungrateful. There is always, always something to be grateful for. Always.


Ellie Holbook, MA, LPC, RYT200

Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Yoga Teacher

Willmar, MN

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Human Is As Human Does

February 19th, 2014

As a therapist, I work in the field of self-improvement. My job, in essence, is to help the individuals I work with increase their satisfaction in life by obtaining goals, working through difficult problems, and attaining personal growth. And through my work, and my own life experiences, I am reminded each and every day that we as humans, are in fact, human. www.teststarter.com …And while I realize that statement does not exactly sound all that profound, it is true. We humans are, well, human. We are imperfect. Idiosynchratic. Flawed, even. We

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make mistakes. We have regrets. We learn things the hard way. We think silly thoughts, experience confusing emotions, and behave in ways that does not always make sense. As humans, we live our lives as best we can, yet even so, our lives can get incredibly messy. And when this happens, when we fall short of the rather high expectations

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we have set for ourselves, we become disappointed and seem to unforgivingly forget the fact that we are human. It is during these times that we would be best served to forgive ourselves for our own humanness and instead practice radical acceptance. In doing so, we might begin by acknowledging and embracing the following hard, yet liberating, truths: 1. You are talented at some things. But not all things. Acknowledge that you are skilled and talented in many ways. Honor and celebrate your strengths, use them to your advantage at all times, and be proud of yourself. Yet also remind yourself that it is okay that you are not good at everything. That would be impossible. 2. You will make mistakes. You may fail. Sometimes even more than you succeed. But this does not mean that your failures outweigh your successes and triumphs, nor is it an excuse for you to give up. Remember that doing your best is what is most important in these instances. It is the process that matters. Even failures have value, honor, and beauty. 3. You are special. Not always in the way you would like to think you are, but also in ways that you do not realize. It is important to know that you are important, loved, and unique. And it is even more important to remember that every human life is important, loved, and unique in equal ways. None more so than any other. Ever. 4. Much of what happens in life is beyond our control. Try as we might to plan out our lives, life often has its own plans for us. So rather than resisting the flow of life and attempting to control that which we cannot, practice acceptance and surrender, and find the value of what life has in store for you. 5. Everything is temporary. The only constant is change. Nothing stays the same forever. Find comfort in this, and know that this is what makes life precious.70-410

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