"Look at what you bring to the world, not what you lack." - Miranda Kate

Thursday, 19 June 2014

How to build your Self-worth & Self-esteem, and 'Being enough'

A Rainbow in a grey sky.
Do you think you are worth caring about?

Do you think you are good enough?

Do you put your feelings last?

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”  - Buddha

Lack of self-worth and ‘being enough’ is a large subject, and one talked about a lot in self-help and personal development circles. And for me personally, it is one of the reasons I started my journey.

It is a topic that shows up in many different forms, and many different ways, and I will return to it in future blog posts. But I wanted to mention it early on, to look at the basics of it, and how it shows up, and how to start tackling it.

“It’s not what you are that is holding you back, but what you think you are not.” - Denis Waitley

Lack of self-worth or lack of self-esteem is about believing we are not worthy, or believing that what we do is not good enough. Many of these feelings are developed in our formative years, and reflect how we were nurtured as children by our parents. They also arise from situations we encountered and environments we were in during our formative years, school years, and even into our early adulthood: any traumatic event can trigger these feelings.

In regards to parenting, the questions that come up are: Were we a priority? Did we receive enough time and attention? And more importantly, was that time and attention positive or negative?

Some people are more sensitive than others, or more insecure, so it can be difficult to find a balance, but a happy, secure home and/or parent goes a long way to help a child achieve feelings of self-worth and that what they do is good enough. ‘Quality time’ spent with our children matters. It may be only 15 minutes a day, but if that time is positive, encouraging and loving, it can make a huge difference; it develops their ability to feel positive about themselves. Whereas, if it is spent correcting, berating, nit-picking, or simply ignoring the child, it can be destructive.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” – William James

In regards to situations: Did we encounter abuse of any kind: verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual? Were we bullied at school, at home, by friends, parents, siblings, or strangers? Did we feel secure? Were we moved around a lot? Did we experience multiple homes, schools, or extreme living conditions, such as domestic violence, homelessness? 

All of these will affect how we feel about ourselves and how we show up in the world. It will affect how we react to those around us and to future situations we experience. We might not be able to change what has happened to us, but we can change how we choose to think about it, and the meaning we give it.

“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” – Louise L. Hay

I experienced many of these situations, and feeling good enough is something I work at every day. I used to tell myself I don’t bring anything positive, that I am a burden and people don’t want me around, which is completely reflective of how I was treated as a child by the single parent I had and my siblings. I experienced domestic violence, homelessness, and plenty of verbal and emotional abuse, as well as bullying. I moved schools six times and moved house eighteen times before I turned eighteen. My experiences run the gamut of many of these situations both through my formative years and into late teenage. I repeated the patterns I developed from them into adulthood, resulting in me frequently changing homes, jobs, relationships and friendships.

It was only once I asked myself why my life wasn’t going the way I wanted that I took a closer look and started to see the patterns. I then sought to change and break them, but it's no mean feat: it meant changing the way I thought about myself, in particular how I talked to myself - and about myself to others too. And to do that I needed to change the perception I had about myself and the life around me.

“Perception is a mirror, not a fact. What you look on is your state of mind, reflected outwards.” – Colette Baron-Reid 

It’s not easy to change our thinking, sometimes it’s a daily fight, but we can start by countering the negative thoughts we have about ourselves not being good enough. We need to remind ourselves what we DO bring to the world (or situation, relationship, friendship). I consciously began reminding myself that I did have something of value to bring, that I am worthy of other people’s love and respect, and what I have to offer is unique.

Everyone has their own gifts, and when we feel overwhelmed by a situation, or an event that hasn’t gone the way we would have liked, or reminded us of a previous trauma, we need to focus on those gifts.

I recommend writing them down and reading them regularly. I followed Mastin Kipp’s advice - founder/owner of the Daily Love website - who said:

“Make a list of all the things you wish other people would see about you.
Then ask yourself – are you demonstrating these qualities towards yourself?
How would you act if you were demonstrating them?”

Writing that list and answering those questions is important, because then you have it to refer to whenever you are feeling bad about yourself. And it might surprise you when you see just how many qualities you have.

“Your worth is defined by how you feel about yourself, not how other people feel about you.”- Unknown.

Among the list of my qualities were such things as: loyalty, honesty, caring and trust. I knew I possessed them, but I rarely treated myself with honesty, loyalty or caring. I was often harsh with myself, believing I didn’t deserve any of them. But if I started being honest with myself, and listening to myself, standing by my feelings rather than belittling them or being ashamed of them, a whole new person arrived. And I also discovered that the last one, trust, was a key factor in building my self-esteem.

If we don’t trust ourselves, how can we believe in ourselves? We need to trust our feelings. By trusting them we can become sure of them, and when we become sure them, we become sure of ourselves, bringing a sense of inner security. And if we are secure in ourselves, then the effects of the outside world diminishes.

“The more you believe in yourself, the more you can trust yourself. The more you trust yourself, the less you compare yourself to others.” - Roy T. Bennett

We trust ourselves by knowing our limits, keeping within the boundaries we are comfortable with and not compromising them for someone or something externally. Being true to what we want and what we feel in our hearts. Being fair to ourselves and reminding ourselves of all the good things we have done, and that what we have done is good enough.

So remember:

“Be kind to yourself! Forgive yourself! Encourage yourself! Believe in yourself! Appreciate yourself! Have faith in yourself! Listen to yourself! Be gentle with yourself! Stop talking so negatively to yourself! Love yourself!” – Mastin Kipp

Sunday, 23 February 2014

How to Be Self-Approved & Stop Seeking External Approval

Image of a purple Morning Glory flower in bloom with text: Love YourselfThe term ‘Be Self-Approved’ is regularly quoted and heavily promoted by motivational and inspirational life coaches, speakers and mentors.

When I first heard it I wondered how it was achievable, how was it possible to go around feeling that everything I did, thought and expressed was okay?

I knew it was a matter of building self-esteem, and that it was going to take more than simply reciting those three words.

And I discovered the first step towards that was to stop seeking external approval. But what did that mean?

It meant stop putting other people’s feeling before my own. It meant stop considering their perception of me as being more important than my own. And to stop trying to alter what I said and did in order to gain a positive response or action from them - just to get them more interested in me, and to ‘like’ me.

Yes, a tall order.

When we seek approval from others we give away our power. We make our happiness dependent on another, by making our feelings dependent on their response to us. If they like us, we like ourselves; if they are unhappy with something we have said or done, we are unhappy. We feel bad, and become submissive, changing our action or opinion to match theirs, to get them to respond to us positively.

If you aren’t good at loving yourself, you will have a difficult time loving anyone, since you will resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren’t even giving to yourself.” -  Barbara DeAngelis

But in doing so we are chastising a part of ourselves, stifling who we are, or who we want to be, and often this builds anger and resent, which we either take out on the ones we love or turn on ourselves - or both.

We can become a victim and blame everyone else for our life not going the way we want it; be unhappy, give anyone who will listen our sob story and make excuses for why we can’t change it; or we can become angry and defensive, taking out our inability to be happy with ourselves and the choices we have made, on those around us.

I have been both of these, and they are both negative, often resulting in attracting people with a similar mindset, thus perpetuating the same thinking. And it also pushes away those people we do want to be like - or attract - who could help bring out the best in us.

"Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult." - Joyce Meyer

You see, when we start giving up parts of ourselves to gain someone else’s approval we are no longer being honest with ourselves – or with them. We start to live a lie; we start to convince ourselves that what they want is what we want, and we suppress our own feelings. We stop listening to ourselves and then we become confused, especially when we aren’t happy with the end result. 

When I was like this people told me that I had choices, but I felt that wasn't true;  I felt the things in my life weren’t my personal choice, that I was doing them to please another. I had put myself in a position where I felt there were no choices - not if I wanted to be with that person or keep them wanting to be with me. I had given away my personal power to maintain a lie, because I thought that person was more important than me, or that person's happiness was more important than my own. But at the end of the day it was me that was losing out.

When we are not happy with ourselves, we can't make another person happy. The more unhappy we are, the more difficult it is for them to be around us. In the end we are pushing them away, rather than drawing them towards us, and this will only make us more unhappy. We have to make ourselves happy first.

"Love yourself first, because that's who you'll be spending the rest of your life with."- Unknown

We also need to ask ourselves who we are seeking approval from; why have we made those people more important than ourselves? What is it that they have that we think we need? Is it something we feel we are lacking within ourselves? What are we really seeking from them? And why can't we find it within ourselves?

In the answers to those questions we will begin to unravel what we are seeking, and how we can go about finding it within ourselves, rather than looking externally. Sometimes we might discover we already possess it, and just need to nurture it and give it room to grow.

"Nurturing yourself is not selfish - it's essential to your survival and your well-being." - Renee Trudeau

It's only by realising our own self-worth, and our own value that can we stop looking externally for approval and find inner happiness. As previously mentioned in How to Stop Negative Internal Dialogue, we need to think about what we DO have to offer and what kind of person we DO want to be, and the life we want to lead. We can start this is by listening to ourselves, hearing our own needs and desires, and then making a list of all our positive traits, or those we want to possess, and focus on them, and how to go about achieving them.

“If you want to improve your love life, improve how you love yourself. The love you have for yourself is, in a way, the only love you have in your life because all the other love is a mirror of it. If you don’t love yourself enough, you’ll find ways not to find love. Be kind to yourself! Forgive yourself! Encourage yourself! Appreciate yourself, Have faith in yourself! Listen to yourself! Be gentle with yourself! Stop talking so negatively to yourself! Love yourself!” – The Daily Love, Mastin Kipp

Monday, 13 January 2014

'Core Beliefs': What They Are and How They Affect You.

Image of a human eye close up in rainbow colours with text: I believe in meDo you struggle with doing the things you want to do?

Do you believe that some things are not possible for you?

Does what you believe about yourself hold you back?

A core belief is a belief about oneself that is instilled in the first seven years of life. As a baby and a small child we look to our parents and/ or care givers to tell us if we are okay or not, and confirm how we should or shouldn’t be. And it is them that help us define our set of beliefs about the world around us and our place within it.

Within the first seven years this is malleable; what is learnt and how it’s learnt can be redefined or changed, but from there on out, although it can be updated, the core beliefs are set. It will take work to alter them.

From that point forward all ideas and beliefs about our standing in the world and how we relate to it are based off what it taught in that early period.

“Chronic self-doubt is a symptom of the core belief, 'I'm not good enough.' We adopt these types of limiting beliefs in response to our family and childhood experiences, and they become rooted in the subconscious... we have the ability to take action to override it...” Lauren Mackler

Understanding these core beliefs can often help unearth some thought patterns, behaviours and responses that are holding us back or negatively impacting our lives. And once we understand them, we can find ways to break them and/or produce a different result.

How we react to the world and the people around us is based off these core beliefs. They can make us sensitive to certain topics and cause us to act defensively or more abruptly. They alter how we perceive what is being said to us.

In my experience, I was raised to believe that that what I had to say was not important, that in fact I was not important, and that only others perception of me mattered. It would alter how I behaved and reacted around people. I would be more defensive and careful about what I said and did. I would not relax, and I would listen for anything they might say that could be perceived as a criticism, and react to that. Although often I would not react publicly, I would instead take it away in my head and relive it over and over, persecuting myself with it.

“If our core belief is based on what other people think, then we eventually will allow their opinions to become our reality.” - Darren L.Johnson

I was also led to believe that other people were more important than me, that their feelings and thoughts took precedence over mine. I would stifle myself and chastise my own feelings and put theirs before mine. This often brought about feelings of pain and disconnection, which built into resent and on a deeper level, rage.

This would then lead me to believe I did not belong; that my behaviour and responses in life did not fit in with other people. I would find myself setting up circumstances and situations to support this belief, such as not allowing myself to be a part of things, and never quite stepping into social situations, never living anywhere for very long or staying in a job for very long. This would allow me a fresh start where I didn’t know anyone, and no one knew me, I would be the new person, and not yet belonging - and never quite belonging. I would create a vicious circle or catch-22 to maintain the belief of not belonging.

I didn’t belong, because I didn’t allow myself to, sustaining the belief that I didn’t belong and/or wasn’t worthy of belonging. I kept myself apart and told myself I was not wanted. A reflection of what I had been raised to believe about myself.

“You don’t become what you want, you become what you believe.” - OprahWinfrey

Once I discovered these core beliefs I needed to find a way to change them. I began by ‘updating’ them with a new one. My first therapist set me the task of coming up with a sentence that reflected a new belief, a true belief, about myself. And mine was: ‘It’s my life and I’m the most important person in it’.

To instil this belief I had to repeat it to myself several times a day, and although it took several years, I did eventually believe it and start living from it.

I also had to find ways to break the patterns that were formed by the old beliefs. I did this by first recognising them, and then challenging them by staying in a situation or job when I started to have feelings of discomfort, feelings that the people around me were starting to know me well, risking them seeing sides of myself that might not match their perception of me, and allow myself to be vulnerable.

This would include attending social events that I might otherwise avoid attending. And rather than going with a preconceived idea of what to expect, I would try and remain open to whomever I might talk to, and what might transpire.

“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” - Brene Brown

So how do you go about finding these core beliefs?

A good way to do this is, when you wake up in the morning, and go through the motions of the day, ask yourself:

Do you know in your heart that you and your actions matter?

Do you know that you make a difference?

Observe the answer, and note it down for self reflection.

Ask yourself what you truly believe about yourself, then ask yourself what ‘evidence’ you are producing to sustain that belief.

What are you doing in your day to day life to cause you to continue believing these things?

What responses are you getting from the world to substantiate them?

And if they are not working for you, what can you do to change them?

What actions can you take?

What internal dialogue can you alter?

This can also apply to all areas of your life: work, home, personal relationships.

Often our beliefs about money and love are taught to us through our parents and the experiences they have set. We learn from their thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. We go on to repeat these patterns, feeling helpless to break them.

So again ask yourself:

What do you believe about money, love and relationships based on what you were taught as a child?

How does it reflect what you have experienced?

What are you doing to maintain those beliefs?

What patterns are you repeating, what behaviours are you displaying?

And how can you change it?

What can you stop doing, or do more of?

Once you become aware of these internal core beliefs, you can work on updating them with new ones that work with you rather than against you.

“You are what you believe yourself to be.” - Paul Coelho