It is you. You are the reason. You are not where you want to be because you are the biggest stumbling block in your way to landing that dream job or thriving in a healthy relationship. It is time to stop blaming all those around you and take a good look in the mirror.
Funny fact, well not exactly funny--it is more like an ironic observance. I have found myself fascinated by the collection of conversations I have each and everyday. These collective conversations are both personal and professional. And each conversation is woven with both inspirational overtones and phenomenal struggles. Each story produces varying plots but they all have one common thread- this common tie is that their life dissatisfaction comes from choices (notwithstanding illness). And all of these choices were made in direct correlation with how they feel about themselves.
Ask yourself-do you like what you see in the mirror? This is not merely a question of appearance- it is a question that asks do you like the person you are and do you reflect this feeling to the world? Ask yourself these questions:
Do you like the choices you make daily?
Do you enjoy the people you surround yourself with?
Do you show up for your life the way you truly should?
Do you compare yourself to those around you?
Do you impose impossible expectations on yourself?
Do you beat yourself up for past failures?
If you answered "YES" to any of these questions, ask yourself this: Do you love yourself? Do you love yourself the way you love your child, or your best friend or your fur baby?
“We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.” Swami Vivekananda
Let's explore this a little more, your life is about choices. We cannot control everything, but we do have the ability to control our thoughts. We have the power to attach positive thoughts to neutral experiences. Such a simple concept can really change our trajectory.
Our thoughts lead to our choices. We have the option to take a right turn or a left turn. The right turn leads you to what you know (your comfort zone) and the left turn takes you up a mountain and leads you to new heights. The sum total result of your thoughts sometimes create the negative experiences you are desperately trying to avoid. For example, you do not pick a lackluster mate who sits on the sofa all day drinking beer and commenting on your shabby outfit. You made that decision to commit to this person based on what you think about yourself. Why would you deserve any more than this person in your life?
You do not chose to eat a tub of Ben and Jerry's and a Big Mac for a meal if you feel that you are a healthy person and make healthy choices. You do not settle for a job in food services if you are confident in your skills as a Marketing Exec. Is this ringing a bell?
The intersection of our thoughts and experiences leads usto our assessment of our inner-value. And when we feel icky inside it prompts us to make choices that do not truly align with our core beliefs.
What Impacts Our Self-Esteem?
So why do we make bad choices? This process begins at an early age (I am not blaming mom and dad anymore). They begin with looking for external validation. They begin small and can grow into over powering negative loops in our heads that repeatedly detract us from our fullest potential.
Here are a few powerful reasons we get distracted and allow ourselves to align with outside opinions about ourselves. Take a minute to asses how you navigate these external influences:
your peer group
your body image
your past mistakes
your understanding of past failures
your self imposed expectations
Take a look at the closest people who surround you. Are they accepting of you and ask nothing more of you? I pride myself on the ability to assess the "whole person" and to glean their trajectory by knowing that the people you surround yourself with have an influence on how you navigate your life. If someone is surrounded by a lack luster bunch of fear mongers your success will be tampered. I instinctively know that the journey ahead will be riddled with resistance. We as humans like what is comfortable. The word "comfort" connotates a feeling of relief or safety. When comfortable--there is no need to move from that space. When we raise the bar in our peer group, or professional space- we are forced on a feeling of uncomfortable-ness. And this is where change happens. Growth is born from change. And this is a muscle we must flex,. And often, when we are growing we feel a deep sense of being ill at ease. And just as a muscle we are trying to build, it is sore at first and then it becomes bigger and stronger.
A prominent variable in the self-esteem equation is our experiences with the first humans (our family of origin) who were expressly given the gift to care for us. I firmly believe we all do the best we can with the tools we have at a given moment. Yet some familial experiences are far more devastating than others.
Some of us did not win the prize in the family lottery. And the messages we get from a young age may be the mirror we look into every morning. Dysfunction runs long and deep and the facets of these relationships are so complicated. Families become enmeshed, co-dependent, controlling and often toxic. And when we perceive family loyalty as the underpinning that directs our lives it is hard to break free from this bondage. Breaking free of familial expectations casts us into a space of self-doubt and segregation. The task of chipping away at the DNA that has been passed on from generation to generation is an arduous exercise in resilience.
I have been told in the past that I am my own worse enemy.
Sound familiar? We beat ourselves up. We ruminate over past mistakes. We compare ourselves to the next best thing. We set our expectations so high that it is impossible for us to even achieve these goals. I remember walking home from school when I was in 2nd grade. I clearly remember it being an overcast spring day and I began begging with the universe to make me someone different. (Particular Nicky Dee, she had a really cool feathered bob, was athletic and seemed to command the attention of our peers). All I wanted to be was someone else. Obviously, this did not happen. But I spent years wishing I had a different body, a better hair cut, nicer clothes and more friends. At an early age I learned that I was not receiving validation from my peers because I was me and me was not good enough. And it was not until years later and decades of feeling "less than" I started to question my thought pattern.
Self -Flagellation is not relegated to a certain demographic. We as women, in particular, touch upon those moments when we doubt our skillset. I had a dynamic client named Elizabeth. Elizabeth was a seasoned legal advocate and even testified before congress. Elizabeth too, ran for public office and fought the good fight. Although, she lost by a slim margin I basked in the glory that was her. She was bold and unabashedly courageous. She came to my office wanting assistance in a career pivot. My immediate reaction was disbelief. This woman embodies everything I want to be. And when she handed me her resume I saw a document that screamed, "UNWORTHY". Her resume was an underselling of her most valuable projects. She minimized accolades--or even omitted them all together. Quickly our discussion became laser focused on her self-esteem. Her esteem was an entanglement of self talk that prioritized her failures.
Elizabeth's self doubt began when her origin family blended into a new family. Step-brothers and new babies made her feel invisible. In her marriage she was de-valued for all her accomplishments. She allowed her closest circle to keep bombarding her with negative distractions. Elizabeth began working on strengthening her sense of self. She practiced self-care. She released the ties that held her hostage for so many years. She saw that her greatest responsibility was to herself so she could create a bigger impact world wide. Elizabeth is slowly moving towards another campaign. And there is no doubt in my mind that with this new understanding her victories and embracing her failures will cast her as a political leader.
With so many moving parts in this agile navigation of life we have the potential to obliterate the way we feel about ourselves in a split second.
What can we do to dull these dis-affirming words in our heads?
1. The first step is to become fully aware of yourself. To understand yourself is to realize that the intense beauty and valuable skills you hold within you, is the key to liberation. Change cannot and will not happen without self awareness, my friend. If you don't know who the heck you are-how can you make a choice based on a fundamental misunderstanding? Explore your likes, your dislikes and your values. Ask yourself what motivates you? What excites you?
2. Recognize when the self-negating talk starts. This simple step of recognition will put a chokehold on this loveless habit.
3. Understand and harness your X-Factor. Your X-Factor is that "special something" that is noteworthy. Perhaps you have a hidden talent? Or do you have a secret passion for doing something slightly out of the ordinary? When you unearth this unique quality, or your X-Factor grab a friend and conduct an informal beta-test. quality beta-test.
4. Take baby steps outside of your comfort zone. Try something new. Really feel the uncomfortable-ness. Grab a piece of paper and start scrawling those amazing ideas for that book you have been dreaming about. Test out that flow-box class or martial arts class that you have been interested in but always looked intimidating. Is life not too short to let mediocrity win?
5. Join a group of like minded humans. It does not matter the topic. It does not matter the format. It just matters that you do not feel so alone in your journey.
6. Find a mentor. Or a therapist. Or even a coach. Objective reflection can bring clarity.
7. Tell yourself you are worthy daily. Tell yourself that you are worthy just because you are you. Because you are. Worthy.
You got this, Julie