Tag Archives: self-esteem

Meet Your True Self

bird reflection

 

 

When you’re harassed by guilt and self-judgment, you’re vacating your true self . . . and you’re vacating truth. Period.

In my last post, Escape your Jungle, I defined the true self and how it can easily become overshadowed by a bogus self-concept—based on erroneous beliefs about ourselves.

Donna was my example. Her negative conclusions about herself created a strangling thicket which played a significant role in her depression and life dissatisfaction.  Her pathway back to her true self entailed disbelieving those conclusions.

Like Donna, Brad needed to get reacquainted with his true self and identify the lies about himself that he was hanging on to.  I’ve mentioned him before on this blog.

Long ago, when Brad was a child, an inner critic started to sprout. It criticized and shamed him the way his father would. And it picked on him exactly the way his siblings did. In time, Brad grew up and left home but his inner critic went with him. That’s too bad. It meant he would continue to experience internal assaults and guilt on a constant basis.

Another term for “inner critic” is “inner roommate.” I happened upon that term while reading Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul. Learn more about the inner roommate here.

This nasty brute hangs out in our head, taunting, judging, scolding, bossing, and finding fault with everything we wear, think, eat and do. (And the list doesn’t end there.) 😉

Those internalized messages obscure our true self. I remember Brad once telling me, “My true self is foreign to me, so I don’t feel it’s attainable.” Like so many of us, he had fallen into the habit of giving his inner roommate more reality than his true self.

“How do I figure out what my true self is?” he asked.

“We don’t figure out who we are,” I said, “we experience it.”

I had Brad close his eyes and imagine a time when he felt free from guilt. With barely a moment’s hesitation, he said: “Being out in nature.” His voice cracked with emotion as he talked about finding refuge in a woods near his house. He played near a creek, climbed on logs and built a few forts over time. Nothing disturbed his peace. His siblings weren’t there to pick on him and his father wasn’t there to shame or judge him. He felt peaceful and self-confident. He didn’t need his father’s acceptance out there—he was experiencing self-acceptance.

I urged Brad to tuck that memory away and pull it out whenever he feels a guilt-attack coming on. It’ll key him into the truth about himself.

Another client recounts similar feelings while playing a piano . . . when she gets to a space where the music is “effortlessly flowing through my fingers, and the whole world shrinks to nothing—there is only that moment.”

As for me, my earliest true-self memory goes back to the age of five. It was one of those sunny, deep-blue-sky days, and I was outside on my bicycle. Not a soul was in sight . . . just me, the birds and the serene day.

The inner roommate is relentless and doesn’t go away without an entire arsenal being deployed against it. The inner roommate doesn’t use logic. It can’t use logic, but we can and must. We shouldn’t blindly buy into what our inner roommate says about us. How did it get a monopoly on truth anyway? Questioning the validity of the roommate’s accusations involves logic.

In our sessions, whenever Brad said something negative about himself, I questioned it. I demanded evidence to support the allegations. I got ruthless at times! 🙂 Finally, after enough exposure to this, he began questioning his negative self-talk on his own. That was the idea.

I get excited—call it a eureka moment—whenever clients see their inner roommate for what it is and cease to pay homage to it. Such a moment presented itself not long ago when Brad leaned forward in his chair and uttered these words:

“You know what? My roommate’s a liar!”

We high-fived that one! That moment of clarity, by the way, came straight from his true self.

What are some of your true-self experiences? I’d love to hear them!

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

(c) 2014 Salee Reese

 

 

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Fishing with My Little Brother

 

fishing

Everyone knows dads come in all shapes and sizes . . . but they also come in assorted forms. Lots of children are fortunate enough to have a man—who isn’t their biological father—step into that role. They may either supplement what Dad is doing or, perhaps, fill in the gap where Dad is literally missing. That man might be an uncle, brother or grandfather, or he might be completely unrelated to the child.

I know such a man. Don is a Big Brother to Logan. His father is completely absent from Logan’s life, so Don—along with other key male figures—has the opportunity to significantly leave an impact.

Recently, Don told me about an outing he had with Logan. The two of them headed for a pond with their fishing poles. When they got there, Don prepped Logan by saying: “Today, you’re going to become a fisherman.” Pointing to the bait, he said: “Which one do you think would work best?” Logan chose. Then with some basic instruction, Don coached him on how to bait the hook.

Don explained to me that it wasn’t their first time fishing together, “but it was fishing at a whole new level. I let him fish. I gave up control. My former pattern would have been, ‘No, do it this way.’ That avenue would only rattle Logan’s confidence and reinforce any fear of failure he might have. So I got out of the way and let him have his own experience.”

Logan’s attempts were clumsy at first. “But that didn’t matter,” Don said. “We grownups need to remember the first time we baited a hook . . . it just wasn’t very pretty.”

Within two minutes, Logan caught a fish. The first words out of his mouth were, “I feel really good about myself!”

“I felt happiness for Logan,” Don said, beaming. “I’m positive the reason he felt good about himself was because he mastered something on his own.”

What made that afternoon so special was the fact that Logan challenged himself to try something new. And Don facilitated it by being patient and by having faith in Logan.

 “I’m learning that there’s a difference between doing something with someone and doing something for them,” Don said.

“That’s how confidence is built.”

So true. After catching the fish, Logan asked: “Can I take the fish off the hook?” Ahhh, confidence in action.

“Logan’s success brought joy to both of us as well as a sense of connection and achievement,” Don said. “You know . . . I feel really good about myself, too.”

Hmmm. Looks like making a significant impact runs both ways.

For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters, see http://www.bbbs.org/

 

 

 

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Choose to Bloom

 

blooming flower

 

 

Spring.

The sun.

The warm air.

Life blooming.

With the awakening earth, my soul is refreshed.

Like the flowers that push through the hard ground,

I too am now open to possibility.

No one chooses how I bloom but me!

—Kim Thompson

I just love that poem! How does it speak to me? It’s all about birth, change, and personal choice. Life just doesn’t stand still—it can’t. Old eventually gives way to new. We witness it everywhere!

Such a peaceful thought . . . to know we all have a chance at renewal. I’m certainly not the same person I was ten years ago or even ten days ago. “Hard ground”—struggle—is on everybody’s agenda, but so is blooming.

Brad’s a perfect example. For years he’s lived in a cage—a cage of depression. I wrote about him a few months back. Click here to read “The Latest Wow: We Can’t Always Snap Out of It.”

Well, it seems he is snapping out of it—I’m noticing some blooming going on. For the first time, Brad’s questioning what his inner roommate tells him. (For more on inner roommates, read “Meet Your Roommate.”)

His badgering roommate tells him—on a constant basis—what a loser he is. It accuses him of being lazy, wasting time, and generally being worthless. Internalizing that message, giving it the weight of truth, kills all motivation.  “I hesitate to make more of myself . . . to even try,” he said, “because I think: What’s the use? Why try? I’ll never get it right.”

Your busy mind isn’t you. You’re the one observing it.

“What’s the benefit of being an observer of your thoughts?” I asked.

“It allows a person to detach from their roommate,” he said. “It’s a form of letting go. I see that I need to separate from my thoughts.”

I would love the opportunity to get Brad’s inner roommate on “the couch.” The first thing out of my mouth would be: “Don’t you have something better to do? Who’s actually the lazy one here?  As far as I can see, your sole interest in life is tearing Brad to shreds every chance you get. How ridiculous is that? What a complete waste of time and how utterly pointless!”

Of course, I would never actually have a conversation like that with a client, but “roommates” are another matter.  That’s exactly the kind of conversation we all need to have with our bedeviling inner critics.  Brad, I’m happy to say, is well on his way.

 

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

 

Thanks to Kim Thompson for the use of her lovely poem.  Kim’s talents extend far beyond her gift with words . . . check out her site and see for yourself. 🙂

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You’re Bigger Than You Think

African-Elephant-on-the-Road-537x357

 

There’s a psychological term I want to introduce you to. You may already know it; the word is “schema” and it means a deeply ingrained belief or impression about ourselves and the world around us.

Schemas take root at an early age as a result of what we experience in life. Certain key people are also tremendously influential in the formation of schemas. By what they say and do, we form conclusions which have lasting effects on our behavior, our pattern of thinking, our choices and our self-concept. In essence, schemas color how we view reality and how we respond to most situations.

Automatic assumptions spring from schemas. Let’s face it, they show up in every argument!

Some schemas are positive, some are not-so-positive. Lorena recently shared a story illustrating a not-so-positive schema. (I wrote about her in an earlier post: “Perfection is Highly Overrated!” Click here to read it.)

Not long ago, her dad pointed to a photograph of her on the refrigerator. “Do you remember that?” he asked. The photograph showed a 4-year-old Lorena dressed in a cute dancing outfit.

She remembered the photo and she also remembered the thought that ran through her mind when she saw it shortly after it was taken. “I was thinking that my thighs were too big!” she said while shaking her head in disbelief.  “I just cannot imagine that someone that young could even entertain such a thought! It’s just so outlandishly sad!”

By the age of four, Lorena had been thoroughly programmed to scrutinize her physical appearance. Yes, that is “outlandishly sad.” Her schema goes something like this: “My acceptance is based on how I look,” and “There is something fundamentally wrong with me.”

“As far back as I can remember,” she said, “I compared myself to other girls.”

Lorena was curious about the origins of her shaping. “Who’s opinion did I buy into?” she wondered. After mulling it over she came up with this: “I’m pretty sure it was my grandmother’s. As long as I can remember, she was constantly making derogatory remarks about how other people looked.”

The remedy for bothersome schemas? A heavy dose of clear minded self-appraisal.

We get free by questioning our conditioned assumptions about ourselves.

Lorena’s on a journey to do just that. She’s busy revamping her schema by disbelieving it. And in the process, she’s realizing she’s a whole lot bigger than some old schema hanging out in her brain.

 

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

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Meet Your Roommate

roommate

 

Suppose you had a roommate who constantly scrutinized and critiqued your every move starting with the moment you got out of bed: “You should have gotten up earlier. Are you ignoring  today’s schedule? Your hair’s a mess . . . as usual. Don’t forget to contact Jonathan today. He expects a call, you know. You’re such a slacker.”

How long would you continue to live with such a roommate? Briefly. You’d throw that person out on the street in no time flat!

That’s what Michael Singer, in his book The Untethered Soul, believes we would do. But . . . BUT . . . he points out an exception. We’re not very likely to boot out the roommate who takes up residence in our head—our “inner roommate.” Our inner roommate says all the same things as any given external—actual—roommate . . . and more! We’re told what to do, what to fear, what to second-guess, and how to think about this person or that person.

Not only does our roommate devote its time to judging us, it judges everybody we know and everybody who streams on and off our path throughout the day.

According to Singer, “It has something to say about everything you look at: ‘I like it. I don’t like it. This is good. That’s bad.’ It just talks and talks. You don’t generally notice because you don’t step back from it. You’re so close that you don’t realize that you’re actually hypnotized into listening to it.”

I can only agree. Call it a dictator we bow and pay homage to.  We listen to it and give it more power and authority than it should have.  I discussed this very thing with two of my clients, Dawn and Doug.  You can read about our sessions by clicking here.

“There’s almost nothing that voice can say that you don’t pay full attention to,” Singer states. “It pulls you right out of whatever you’re doing, no matter how enjoyable, and suddenly you’re paying attention to whatever it has to say . . . . That’s how much respect you have for this neurotic thing inside of you.”

Singer’s correct. We honor it over our own will, in fact. And therein lies the key to change and freedom. We must switch our allegiance from our inner roommate to our will.

 “Your will is stronger than the habit of listening to that voice.”

—Michael Singer

The first step in accomplishing that is to become aware of its existence. The very act of awareness sets you apart from the voice and places you in the role of observer versus blind captive. As an observer, you have control. As your roommate babbles on, you critique it rather than the other way around. And in the process, you think and act on your own beliefs, tastes, and opinions. You determine your own course of action.

Identify with the true you … the observer.

 

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

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Not to Upset the Family Bully, but . . .

walking-on-eggshells

I just have to share something with you. As a writer, I follow several blogs, one by author Kristen Lamb. She captured my attention in a recent post about bullying. Actually, she’s been cranking out post after post on that subject. In one she mentions “family bullying.”  Here’s the quote that grabbed me:

For every family bully, there are passive members dancing around trying to appease The Great Volcano from erupting. Clean the house a certain way, don’t have an opinion, be invisible and cater to every need Mt. Volcano has and he/she won’t blow.

This brought to mind my client, Paul (not his real name), who was feeling conflicted over spending time with his family at Christmas. The bully in his family is his mother. And the family members, with the exception of Paul, do whatever it takes to make her happy.

His mom recruited a reluctant volunteer from amongst his siblings—a sister—to guilt him into attending. She dutifully obliged even though she has a full appreciation of his position.

Paul has made it a policy to avoid such functions because “family events make me miserable,” he said. “Why do I want to go through that? My mom has to create trouble . . . she’s not happy if everyone is having a good time.”

Paul puts her in the same category as a belligerent child who pouts or storms if she doesn’t get her way or if she isn’t the center of attention.

He doesn’t mind one-on-one interactions with his brothers and sisters. The family dysfunction isn’t occurring then. As for his mother, she’s tolerable when he’s with her alone. That’s mostly because he doesn’t “play her game.” He said, “I see it as a form of standing up to her.” He’s right.

Paul is wary of family gatherings for another very good reason: “Expectations are attached to all family events. People get cranky when their expectations aren’t met.”

Many of us can relate to that.

I can still recall with great clarity a family bullying incident I witnessed firsthand a few years ago. It was painful to watch then, and still is when I think about it today. I described it in a column I wrote about some of the unfortunate consequences of family bullying.

In both of these cases the “family bully” just happens to be the mom . . . that’s a coincidence. Any family member can wear that hat.

On that note, how were your holidays—how did it go? Are there any bullies hiding out in your family?

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Recreate You … To Your Liking

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This is the time of the year when we pause amidst our habituated routines and consider making life changes. When it comes to my clients, I typically ask two questions: “How do you want your life to look?” and “How are you hindering that … getting in your own way?”

It’s impossible to act on our dreams and desires until we know how we blindly sabotage them.

Anna is a good example. In one of our sessions, she complained about being treated like a doormat … someone who isn’t valued or respected. She wanted the opposite to be true. “Do I wear a sign on my forehead that says: ‘Walk on me?'”

“Well, yes,” I said. “The bottom line is this: If you don’t want to be treated like a doormat, stop being one.”

doormat

In time, Anna conquered her inner saboteur. Click here to read about it.        

Happy new beginnings!

Names have been changed to honor confidentiality.

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Latest Wow: Face the Truth About Yourself

silhouette woman tree

“The bad thing about not liking myself is not being able to get away from myself. I can’t just go into the next room.”

Anna was being her usual witty self when she made that comment in my office but, sadly, she meant it. Also sad is the fact that a multitude of people feel the exact same way. How can that be? How does that happen?

It’s acquired. Self-loathing isn’t part of the package when we’re born. We don’t come out of the womb disliking ourselves.  We learn it—the result of how we were treated as children. I wrote about this in a column a few years back titled The Bent Twig. The column begins with a painful incident I witnessed between a mother and her little girl in a department store. It still haunts me. You can read it here.

As for Anna, her mother was a mother biologically, solely. Maternal she wasn’t. That is, she was minimally nurturing and minimally involved with her daughter. Understandably, Anna, saw herself as an inconvenience and therefore unworthy of being liked. To some extent, she carries that conclusion around yet today. She’s making progress, though, in turning it around completely.

This is what happens: we form an opinion about ourselves as a result of early life experiences—a self-image—that really isn’t accurate. So what we end up despising is who we think we are, not our innermost reality.  In short, our true self gets buried beneath layers of lies we have bought into about ourselves.

How to change this? A quote immediately comes to mind—a Wow!—by Brad, another client. Like Anna, he’s familiar with self-loathing—he’s been there. Here’s what he said:

“The brain is a fertile chunk of ground so anything we plant up there is going to grow.”

Brad’s statement suggests that we can take charge of our thoughts—the seeds that perpetuate a negative or positive self-image.

It’s good to know that the false notions we learned about ourselves can be unlearned. I say we start by disbelieving the debris of lies we’ve taken ownership of.

Names have been changed to honor client confidentiality

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Love Scored a Touchdown

The week of Thanksgiving is upon us and our thoughts turn to turkey, pumpkin pies, family gatherings and … football—ew! Sorry, football fans. I couldn’t restrain myself.

To me, football seems … well … brutish. Don, my partner, who just so happens to be a former football coach (go figure), tells me I’m suffering from a narrow perspective, and he’s taken it upon himself to correct that. Wish him luck.

Not long ago, he showed me a video about a middle school football team that plotted to help a teammate with a learning disability make a touchdown. Forfeiting points wasn’t their concern. Helping Keith experience a life-changing moment was their sole priority.

Yes, Keith scored, and at that moment, something big took root in him. He’ll probably never be quite the same. And neither will his fellow teammates. Keith gave them something that was equally grand and equally life-changing (the video spells that out).

In essence, Keith gave them an opportunity to open their hearts, rise above personal gain, and redefine the word “victory.” Such opportunities lurk everywhere just waiting to be stumbled upon. They show up on (yes) football fields, in restaurants, board rooms, at work, on the phone, in our car, and in every one of our relationships, to name just a few.

Who’s your Keith?

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Perfection Is Highly Overrated!

babies

Relinquish the need to be perfect. Effort is perfection.

Imagine a roomful of babies all trying to perfect the skill of walking. What we witness is a lot of bumping into things and falling down. We don’t expect babies to get it right immediately—we don’t scold them for failing in their attempts. No. Instead, we’re warmly amused by the sight. So why are we hard on ourselves and each other for not getting it right? Babies need practice. So do we.

This is what I explained to Lorena, 24, who has a tendency to judge herself for being imperfect. She has judged herself for things like making mistakes on her new job,  not following her diet faithfully, and for getting less than an A in her classes at college.

perfectionism2

I gave her some strange advice: “If you get a C, regard it as a victory.”

Confusion was written all over her face.

“I say that because for you, an A is intimately connected to self-acceptance. It will mean progress for you when you feel self-acceptance no matter what—even when you’re less than perfect.”

Not long ago, Lorena gave me an update on her progress. She had written a report for school and instead of obsessively perfecting it “I told myself it was good enough.” For Lorena, that’s progress. 

 good enough

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