Tag Archives: self-image

How to See a Beautiful Person in the Mirror

girl

Society has allowed our notion of beauty to go awry. Countless women–and not just women–look in the mirror and see a reflection of inadequacy. They have fallen short of an ideal that was defective to begin with. But conditioned since childhood to equate a “perfect” body with being beautiful, they blame themselves for being the defective one.

The situation is filled with cruel ironies. Children are naturally beautiful until they are taught to stop thinking that way and to start measuring themselves by an unnatural standard. Even the small percentage of women who are super-model thin suffer anxiety over gaining a pound. The first gray hair and wrinkles create panic. The worship of perfection belies the epidemic of obesity that constitutes reality for millions.

The problem has been diagnosed many times without a workable solution. One study after another has proven without a doubt that fad diets don’t work; in fact, the chances of becoming obese are higher for chronic dieters. Billions of dollars spent on cosmetics and plastic surgery have done nothing to solve a prevailing sense of not being beautiful enough. All of this points to a single underlying issue: a woman’s sense of lack. Continue reading

Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist – Top 10 Reasons to Chill Out

Not That PerfectionistIt was the end of a typical weekday at my house: a moving and shaking day at the office, home for some giggles and play with my young daughters, dinner, baths and bed. Finally, I get some time to myself – hooray! Out of the corner of my eye, I spot a massive pile of clean laundry that has been waiting to be put away for a whole week now. Momentarily, I consider putting it away, but … naah! Instead, I decide to grab my laptop, prop my feet up and work on some writing. I giggled to myself realizing that previously in my life I would have never been able to do that. That tiny bit of clutter would have gnawed away at me, making me super-uneasy and totally unable to relax in-the-moment.

You see, I am a recovering perfectionist. And, boy, I had it bad! Aside from my obsession with cleanliness and everything in its place, I would usually have multiple projects going on at any given point in time, agonizing over every detail, which, of course, needed to be executed juuuust right. Upon completion I would say in one long breath, “Woo-hoo, that was great, finally did it, okay, what’s next?” I used to pour over blog posts editing and re-editing them in the quest for perfect arrangement of the exact right words until they were finally worthy to be released (maybe). I used to work out 6 or 7 days a week and it would take an act of God for me to actually skip a workout!

For years, I would brush my neurosis off as, “I am just built that way. It’s in my DNA.” And, to some extent, this is true. I have a lot of passion and energy eager to pour out. But, what is different these days is my self-talk around this energy. The story I tell myself. I am enough, already. I still have high ambition and put tremendous amounts of love in what I do, but I give myself a break. I have loosened my grasp on expected outcomes and value peace and harmony waaaay more than flawlessness.

So, what was the wake-up call that helped me make the switch from high-strung to mellowed-out? These are the top 10 realizations that I made about perfectionism that helped me along in my journey to become easy like Sunday morning:

  1. “Perfect” is an illusion. It’s striving for the impossible. Even if this high-level of excellence can be met in a particular moment, don’t blink because it is a fleeting ideal. Perfection has an insatiable appetite, and the constant expectation of it sets you up for a whole lot of disappointment, stress, and unhappiness. All the while, the fun of life whizzes right by.

  2. Perfectionism stifles creativity and blocks the birth of fresh ideas. Sometimes we just need to throw the paint on the canvas, allow the notes to be strummed, or let the words pour out. When you mix intense worry into the equation, self-confidence erodes and the artistic flow becomes suppressed. Is everything just right? How it will be perceived by others? This type of thinking takes us out of alignment with our creative source and smothers the flames of imagination into submission.

  3. The ever-present quest for perfection is merely a shield from vulnerability. When we do everything perfectly, then we cannot be judged or criticized. It’s an excuse not to be vulnerable. Just as staying busy in the process of constantly trying to achieve the unachievable is a good way to avoid having to look at and deal with our “stuff.” (And we all have “stuff”). Unfortunately, the only way to heal is to deal (as in facing things head on). The shielding of perfectionism is merely a coping mechanism, which works temporarily, but meanwhile, whatever we’re suppressing only continues to gain more power over us.

  4. Vulnerability shielding inhibits connection. For me, I realized that if I really wanted to be a great writer, coach, mother, and friend who really connects with others then I’d have no other choice but to let down my shield and allow my authentic self to be fully exposed. This means being perfectly imperfect at times, owning it, and granting others permission to do the same.

  5. There is a big difference between striving for excellence and perfectionism. It’s called actually enjoying what you are doing! It’s okay (great, even) to have high aspirations. Shoot for the stars. Go nuts! But, go easy on yourself along the way. Enjoy the journey. Don’t get so tripped up in the outcome that it sucks every ounce of joy out of the process

  6. Perfection is to life what those plastic covers are too a really nice sofa.  Sure, it keeps the dirt off, but what’s the point?? The guitar whose notes are strum slightly off at times is better than the untouched guitar collecting dust on the wall. The laughed in, played in, loved in, house is better than the spotlessly clean one where you can eat off the kitchen floor. The published, yet slightly imperfect, blog or book that allows somebody else to have an “a-ha” moment or inspiration is way better than the “almost perfect” one that is still hiding away, never to be experienced by another soul. Don’t miss the point of life in pursuit of way-too-high standards.

  7. Self-worth is not determined by any outward measurement. This goes for any number on a scale, how clean the house is, how many feathers are in our cap, etc. It’s what’s on the inside that matters most. And, it starts with loving self-talk, not the “I’m not good enough’s” associated with striving for perfect.

  8. It’s even scarier. Yes, it can be scary sharing your passion with the world (whatever the medium). But, what’s even scarier is not sharing your passion with the world because you felt it didn’t meet your own ridiculously high standards. The reality is that nobody’s opinion of your work is going to be quite as critical as your own, anyway. And, even if it is. So what? It’s just somebody else’s opinion. Be passionate, create, love, share — this is living!

  9. Because what perfectionism really is: Throwing an amazing party and forgetting to have a good time because you are worried about some silly little details that nobody else even noticed or actually cares about! (Yes, I might have actually done this before *whistles*).

  10. Perfectionist parents create perfectionist kids. And, I want my girls to grow up knowing unconditional self-love, acceptance of what it is, and enjoyment of life. ‘Nuff said.

Perfectionism is a way of closing off and controlling things. It may look pretty on the outside but in reality it’s cold, isolated and dark. It’s the cracks that let the light in, anyway. So, go on and ease up a bit. Let some light in and shine on!

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A Mom to Her Young Daughter: You are not ugly. God doesn’t do ugly.

We'll Forsake Our Ages and Pretend We Are ChildrenMy first grader and I were snuggling at bedtime when she confessed:

“Mommy, I don’t like my face.”

She told me she thinks she’s ugly, that she hates her body, “The girls at school don’t want me in their group because my face doesn’t look pretty like their faces.”

Ummmm… Whhaaaaaaat?

She’s too young for self image issues. I was 12 before I started feeling insecure about my body, which is sad enough, but to be feeling this way at age 6?

How does a mother respond to that? Give a pep talk? Borrow a library book about self-esteem? Make a call to the school psychologist? And after I do all that, then what?

Carrying the burden of an unhealthy self image is like being an addict. You know it’s wrong, but no one can convince you of subscribing to another way of functioning until you’re ready. You’ve got to beat yourself up long enough to learn that accepting garbage into your life makes you feel like, well, like garbage – until finally you explode, “Okay, okay enough already! I want better for myself! I’m ready to make a change! Help me!!!”

My 6 year old is not ready for change because she doesn’t realize there’s a problem. Poor self image is her normal.

She doesn’t understand where her feelings are coming from. And honestly, I don’t either. A challenge from a past life? A side-effect of American culture? A chemical imbalance? I just don’t know. But ugly is her truth.

I can’t force her to believe that physical attractiveness is unimportant. No lecture can convince her that she was born perfect and complete. She needs to learn those things on her own. But she chose me as her mother for a reason – and I happened to be equipped with some pretty helpful tools with which she can empower herself and start fixing the bits she doesn’t know are broken.

To start, I talked to her about challenges, a familiar topic in my household and in my writing. I explained that we’re all born with a set of challenges, and it’s our job in life to figure out how to work through them. Challenges are sneaky. They feel like they’re real, but actually they’re more like a series of magic tricks. Smoke and mirrors. Divine booby traps set up to see if we can figure our ways past them and learn a lesson in the process. If challenges didn’t exist, life would be so boring that we wouldn’t exist either. So we deal with them – even welcome them – so we can continue to learn about love and life on this amazing planet.

Some challenges we can embrace and some challenges we can balance. The challenge that my baby girl is facing is one that requires a little of both of these actions. She needs to work on embracing, or lovingly accepting, her body just the way it is and balancing the way she feels about herself, inside and out, so that she can feel happy when she’s playing with other kids.

This idea is sort of lofty so we broke it down, talking about the divineness and perfection of her soul energy and decided together that she looks exactly the way the universe designed her to look. God doesn’t do ugly, only perfect. And there’s no arguing with God.

We also enlisted the support of my 6 year old’s personal hero – her big sister. Self esteem is cultivated safely at home, the perfect training ground for the outside world. We talk a lot about the power of our family and the strength that we emote through the way we love each other. Big sister agrees to help set the pace (as best she can) to help little sister with her challenge. She can help to provide safe harbor for her little sister by showing her kindness, affection, and forgiveness.

In Buddhism it is believed that a beautiful face is a gift from a previous lifetime of demonstrating kindness. But whether or not you believe in past lives, we can probably all agree that kindness and love manifest physically in people. We say things like, “I don’t know what it is. There’s just something about that person.” Or maybe you’ve heard the saying that by the time we’re 50 we get the face that we deserve. It’s rooted in the same idea – kindness IS beauty.

Insecurity isn’t about physical appearance. It’s about a deficiency in love and my family has no shortage of love to give my little girl.

So for another layer of healing, we coupled our breathing and meditation practice with Wayne Dyer’s “I Am” statements to program her brain with affirmations at bedtime saying, “I am loving. I am loved. I am compassionate. I am bright. I am kind. I am helpful. I am caring. I am good.” And she marinates in those words while she sleeps.

Notice that I do not use the affirmation, “I am beautiful.” I decided deliberately not to use that word because her current definition of beauty is solely external. Instead we focus on intangibles.

I’d like to tell you that we did this and it worked and my daughter is now a confident, carefree young girl. But that’s not the case. We keep bestowing our love while practicing our breathing and affirmations, and she continues to feel unsure about the meaning of beauty and her place in the social spectrum. I’m confident, however, that with time and mindful commitment, the momentum will shift and she will start to feel the peace that comes with finding balance and acceptance of her life as it is, just like her Mommy did.

4 Steps to Reclaim Your Identity from Facebook

Facebook-IdentityFacebook users could be considered narcissists or at least people who exaggerate their achievements and experiences to show off how great they are to others. When you think about it, Facebook could be an opportune venue for narcissists who keep expanding their audience, drawing in those who wish to bask in their sunlight, get invited to their parties and live vicariously through their experiences. This leads to the logical question: Does Facebook promote an exaggerated sense of self, a false facade of self-worth, or does it in actuality cultivate real self-esteem?

The Facebook profile is an idealized version of self, full of photos and posts to support a “quality” identity. In fact, some people post blatant lies, like about participating in golf tournaments when they don’t even play golf. Others exaggerate how much fun they had on a vacation by posting beautiful photos taken during the one hour of sun in a week filled with mudslides and torrential rain. In either case, one’s lies reveal truths about the self – the image that one wishes to create.

Sometimes when you tell other people your exaggerated achievements or make up stories about your noble aspirations, in essence you are boosting your own self-esteem. After all, these are your innermost wishes and dreams, the inner recesses of your imagination. Once you announce your “stories,” in posts for family, colleagues, friends and acquaintances to see, then you might set out to achieve your stories. Each story you live up to boosts your confidence to build on that experience and fulfill the next one. Who inspires you, a positive coach or a negative coach? In other words you virtually become your own positive coach: Look what I did!

For example, people who experience difficulty losing weight and really want to lose the weight often confide in their inner circle of family and friends for accountability and reinforcement – “there is no turning back now.” Or those who have failed in an endeavor and pledge to succeed in the future want others to see how they can transform failure into triumph. Everyone wants to live up to the better image: Conceive, believe, and achieve.

Reclaim your true identity:

  • You were born an original, first rate version of your authentic self. Don’t become a copy of someone else’s concept, second rate. Take the initiative to fulfill your true self.
  • Start accomplishing for yourself instead of always accomplishing for others.
  • Ask yourself: What do I need to communicate, so that others understand what I need?
  • Rid yourself of emotional programming, that false sense of perfectionism: The perfect job, lover, and home. Make your ideals real. Small steps lead to giant gains.

 

 

Photo credit: Marc Millan

Wordplay Wednesday: Most of the Time

dancesun
Most of the time
I’m grateful
That I’m on a creative path
That I’m following my heart
That I’m a sensitive person
With a million feelings
That I choose not to numb
With alcohol
That I’m asking questions
In every direction
That I have such a strong
Hunger to learn
But sometimes I get tired
Of being the beginner
Wish the signs
Were clearer
Telling me where to turn
I get overwhelmed
It’s hard to tune out
The opinions of others
When you’re living out loud
But most of the time
I roll out of bed
To the sound of the ocean
Like the waves of my breath
And I’m able to focus
My attention
On what lies just ahead
Sipping my coffee
To kick-start my head
And I’m getting
More comfortable
Being uncomfortable
Which kind of feels
Like progress
And I know the longer
That I stay open
And listen
Maintain eye contact
Even when my heart pounds
Everything will unfold
Just as it should
Most of the time
Anyhow

Note: Hi everyone! I wrote this one yesterday:)

“Dove” Parody: Men Think They’re Better Looking Than They Really Are

There has been an outpouring of supportive messages surrounding Dove’s recent body-positivity ad. When it comes to body image and beauty, our community readily comes together to band behind women and promote self-love. Men, on the other hand, often get left out of these discussions, though they are by no means free of self-esteem issues and body dysmorphia.

Perhaps to ironically point out a lack of men in Dove’s messaging, or perhaps just as a lighthearted jab at men, New Feelings Time released a parody to the original ad. In this video it’s clear that there’s a whole other issue, which has been overlooked: Men apparently think they’re better looking than they are! Oh, the irony of self-esteem. Can you have too much of it?Take a look and tell us what you think:

About Face: Why Some Women Can’t Go Without Makeup

Most women can probably attest to knowing at least one friend or family member who absolutely refuses to leave the house until she’s “put her face on.” Many women will not consider going anywhere, whether to the grocery store, the gym, or even the beach, without first putting on a little bit of mascara or lipstick. More often than not, we probably just consider this person to be high-maintenance and laugh it off; but what we may not realize is that this may not be a random compulsive habit or even a question of vanity, but instead a real question of self-confidence.

The 2004 Real Truth About Beauty study, conducted by Dr. Nancy Etcoff, Dr. Susie Orbach, Dr. Jennifer Scott, and Heidi D’Agostino, looked at 3,200 women, aged eighteen to sixty-four, across ten countries, and found that 68 percent of women used makeup products to feel more physically attractive. A 2008 study commissioned by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund studied girls aged eight to seventeen and discovered that 62 percent feel insecure or not sure of themselves. Seventy-one percent of girls with low self-esteem felt their appearance did not measure up and felt they were pretty enough.

Insecurity knows no boundaries; it affects not just the average woman but also famous celebrities, many of whom would be considered beautiful by any standards. Most recently, pop artist Katy Perry told Seventeen magazine, “I don’t really feel pretty ever. Without makeup, I feel ugly.”

Buying What the Media Sells Us
Let’s face it: the cosmetic companies are profiting from our insecurities. In August 2010, MarketWatch reported that L’Oréal, the world’s largest cosmetic company, saw a 21 percent increase in their net profits for the first half of the year. Part of that profitability comes from their successful marketing toward women. A woman’s world is saturated with television and magazine advertisements selling youth in a jar, line-smoothing foundations, lip-plumping lipsticks, and lash-thickening mascaras, as well as myriad beauty guides and makeup “must-haves.” When it comes to cosmetics advertising, companies leave no stone unturned. We’re told that makeup can transform our faces—even when it seems only natural not to be wearing any makeup, like when we’re at the beach. On Allure magazine’s Web site, they offer a story entitled, “Insiders’ Guide: How to Wear Beach Makeup,” which includes information on waterproof products and general tips on how to get your beach look to last. I suppose this means a day at the beach means not getting in the water.

Cultural Influences
While we can certainly trace our decision to wear makeup in part to our willingness to buy what the cosmetic companies are selling, the use of makeup and more generally the need to alter our physical appearance can also be examined from a cultural perspective. San Francisco psychiatrist and psychotherapist Janice E. Cohen, MD, is quick to point out that the use of makeup is actually part of a very universal cultural behavior. Cohen explains, “Every culture has standards and particular ways in which people change or enhance their appearance to feel and appear more attractive or maintain their status within their society or culture.”

History tells us that Cohen is right. Inpiduals who alter their physical appearance are nothing new. Archaeological evidence from ancient Egypt around 3500 BC proves that Egyptian Queen Nefertiti may have used makeup. Women in the South African Ndebele tribeswear metal rings around their necks to elongate them. Indians practice a pre-wedding Mehndi (henna) ritual in which the bride and groom are painted, signifying the strength of love in the marriage. And the Arioi, a class of professional entertainers in Tahiti, use tattoos to signify the various ranks and status within their troupes. These practices are completely normal and, in many instances, are used to carry on decades-old cultural traditions.

However, when a person feels downright uncomfortable or insecure about leaving the house without having makeup on, there may be a larger underlying problem. If the makeup usage turns into more compulsive behavior, it could be an early sign of body dysmorphic disorder. The Mayo Clinic defines this disease as “a type of chronic mental illness in which you can’t stop thinking about a flaw with your appearance, a flaw that is either minor or that you imagine.” Some of the symptoms include a general preoccupation with appearance and excessive makeup application to camouflage the perceived flaw.

The Fear Beneath the Foundation
The extent to which a person feels the need to alter her face can be as simple as wearing lipstick or as complex as undergoing plastic surgery. A recent example of an extreme case of this can be found in television star Heidi Montag, who underwent ten different procedures and confessed that she planned to have more. The twenty-three-year-old starlet admitted to People magazine in November 2009 that she had plastic surgery to “feel more confident,” and said she “was an ugly duckling” before.

This behavior is also not gender specific. Cohen explains, “Distorted body image and obsessions with various aspects of one’s appearance (e.g., hair thickness and texture, body color, weight) are not exclusive to women. A smaller, but significant, number of men have similar issues with negative self-body image. Regardless of sex, whenever an attractive person feels ugly and disgusting, there is something besides his or her appearance that’s causing the distorted negative body image.”

Looking Good = Feeling Good
But wearing cosmetics can also have a positive effect. A 1982 study published in the International Journal of Dermatologylooked at women aged eighteen to sixty. Researchers asked the women to discuss any changes they experienced with wearing makeup, in terms of its effect on how they felt; this included their self-image, their attitudes toward others, and the impression they ultimately hoped to make upon others. Their findings indicated that “normal daily use of cosmetics can fulfill important psychological functions in that it promotes social and psychological well-being.” The researchers found that women do experience certain self-perceived psychological benefits from using cosmetics; the benefits are pervasive across all age groups. The more attractive you feel you are, the more highly you think of yourself. And many women would agree that wearing makeup does affect how they feel. Denise Bomba, a Los Angeles resident who works as a wardrobe supervisor for films and designs her own denim line, worked as a makeup artist for seven years and admits she still enjoys wearing makeup. “It took me a while to get comfortable to leave the house without any on. I believe this is because I know what I can look like with it on, and it does give me the certain confidence to feel good about myself.”

While wearing makeup can significantly affect the way we view ourselves and in some instances the way others view us, it’s critical to understand that no amount of powder or blush or eyeliner is going to fill the void left from a lack of self-confidence. If a person truly feels uncomfortable leaving the house without a certain amount of makeup on, there’s most likely a bigger problem that should not be ignored. Cohen points out, “When there are underlying core negative beliefs about oneself, cosmetics and surgical alterations cannot typically provide any permanent or meaningful relief.”

Originally published in 2010

photo by: re_

Debbie Ford: A Tribute To The Fat Ass

For the last 20 years of my career, as I’ve been leading processes around the world, one of the top five reasons I’ve heard for why people don’t really love themselves and their bodies is “I have a fat ass.” I was born on the skinny side, so I’ve never really been able to relate to having a fat ass although I’ve always had other issues with my body, be it my belly, my sagging skin, my skinny legs or any number of other things that if I focused on could send me into a pool of bad feelings.

But since my hospital stay when I lost 11 pounds, I have come to dream about having a big, wide, round (okay, it doesn’t even have to be round) fat ass. For those of who you have tortured yourselves for millions of hours over the shape of your body, you may wonder “Why is she wishing for a fat ass?”

Well, I’ve lost so much weight that I’m a little bag of bones. I feel like I’m 13 again except without the muscles or padding in my rear to protect me from hard seats and the bed I’ve been resting in for so many hours to get well. I can’t get comfortable no matter how I sit. Yes, I’ve even gone to the extreme step of being one of those women who has to carry a cushion around with them — one of my biggest shadows. What kind of person has to carry around a cushion just to sit down? Me apparently, even though I never even liked carrying a purse, let alone a cushion.

I’ve tried everything. On doctor’s orders, I ate Kentucky Fried Chicken and big chocolate brownies to solve my bony ass trauma. But I woke up the next day with nothing on my rear end and a belly so distended that my son asked me if I was pregnant. My kind sister Arielle got me a booty. Do you know what that is? It’s padded underwear to make it look like I have a bigger rounder butt. But the padding is at the top, not where I sit, so there’s nothing on the place I need the most help! I’ve spent hours on Google searching for a great butt pillow, but the system is failing me. It’s become cosmically funny how my pants just hang down now since there’s nothing to fill them out.

So I decided to do a tribute to the big fat ass. To all those who have been hating, ignoring, hiding, shame-filled, miserable, or embarrassed, to all of you I ask that you appreciate that one day, the extra fat might be your lifesaver. It might be your soft cushion. It might be a friend, allowing you to sleep through the night or sit through a business meeting without wanting to scream because your bones are digging into the chair.

You never know when you’ll need what you’ve got. It’s true for me too. Even as I try taping big soft foam around me, I honor my little skinny ass because I know that too comes bearing gifts (although at the moment I just can’t find them). So whether it’s your thighs, your stomach, your rear end, your flabby arms, or some other part of your body, see if you can make the sacred promise, the solemn oath, and the blessed vow to thank it and honor it.

Transformational Action Step

Go to the mirror and say you’re sorry to any part of your body that you’ve been judging, criticizing, hating, ignoring or belittling. Really bless this part of your body. Thank it. Imagine how this part of you could serve you if you got hit by a car, were in an earthquake or endured some other trauma. See how the extra flab, for example, could protect you, save you, keep you warm or allow you to be a cushion for someone else to find comfort. Thank your body for all the gifts that it offers you. Promise to be aware not of its faults but of its greatness. Do this exercise every day for 10 days until you can write a thank you letter to the part of your body you’ve most judged.

With love and blessings,

Debbie Ford

Originally published in 2010.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / bandita

The Trap of Comparison

 (For this week’s audio message, click here.)

How often do you compare yourself to others?  If you’re anything like me and most of the people I know and work with, probably more than you’d like to admit.  And, as you may have noticed (like I have), this comparison process never seems to feel very good or work very well, does it?

Last week a woman sent me an email and suggested that I check out the website of another author/speaker.  She said he reminded her of me and thought we should know each other.  I looked at his website and was very impressed.  So much so that my Gremlin (that negative, critical voice in my head) started telling me how much better this guy is than me.  "Look at him – he’s a stud: funny, good looking, and super tech savvy.  His site is way cooler than yours, his approach is more hip, and he has this whole thing figured out much better than you do."

After looking at his website and listening to my Gremlin, I found that I was feeling jealous, inferior, and self conscious. Can you relate to this?

Sadly, many of us spend and waste lots of time and energy comparing ourselves to others.  Often times we end up feeling inferior to people based on our own self judgment and hyper criticalness.  However, we also may find ourselves feeling superior to some of the people around us, based on certain aspects of our lives and careers we think are going well and/or the specific struggles of the people in our lives.

The trap of comparison, however, is that whether we feel "less than" someone else or "better than" another person, we’re stuck in a negative loop.  This is the same coin – heads we "win" and think we’re better and tails we "lose" and think we’re worse.  All of this is an insatiable ego game that sets us all up to lose ultimately.  Comparison leads to jealousy, anxiety, judgment, criticism, separation, loneliness, and more.

It’s normal for us to compare ourselves to others – especially given the nature of how most of us were raised and the competitive culture in which we live.  However, this comparison game can have serious consequences on our self esteem, our relationships, our work, and our overall experience of life.

The irony is that almost everyone feels this way, and we often erroneously think that if we just made more money, lost some weight, had more friends, got a better job, moved into a nicer place, had more outward "success", found the "perfect" partner (or changed our partner into that "perfect" person), or whatever – then these insecure and unhealthy feelings of inferior/superior comparison would simply go away. Not true.

How we can transform our comparison process into an experience of growth, connection, and self acceptance and self love (and ultimately let it go) is by dealing with it directly and going to the source – us and how we relate to ourselves.

Here are some things you can do to unhook yourself from the comparison trap:

1) Have empathy and compassion for yourself.  When we notice we’re comparing ourselves to other people and feeling either inferior or superior, it’s essential to have a deep sense of compassion and empathy for ourselves. Comparison almost always comes from a place of insecurity and fear, not of deficiency or mal-intent. Judging ourselves as "less than" someone else or judging ourselves for going into comparison mode in the first place (which many of us do once we become aware of our tendency to do this), doesn’t help. In fact, this judgment causes more harm and keeps us stuck in the negative pattern.

2) Use comparison as an opportunity to accept, appreciate, and love yourself.  When comparison shows up, there is usually a lack of acceptance, appreciation, and love for ourselves.  Instead of feeling bad about what we think is wrong with us or critical of ourselves for being judgmental, what if we took this as a cue to take care of and nurture ourselves in an authentic way.

3) Be willing to admit your own jealousy.  One of the best ways to release something is to admit it (i.e. "tell on yourself"). While this can be a little scary and vulnerable to do, when we have the courage to admit our own jealousy, we can own it in a way that is liberating to both us and other people. Acknowledging the fact that we feel jealous of another person’s success, talent, accomplishment, or quality is a great way to let go of it and to remove the barrier we may feel with that person or experience. If you find yourself jealous of someone you don’t know (like a celebrity or just someone you haven’t met personally), you can acknowledge these feelings to someone close to you or even in a meditation with an image of that actual person.

4) Acknowledge the people you compare yourself to.  Another great way to break through the negative impact of comparing ourselves to others is to reach out to them with some genuine appreciation. After a few minutes of feeling bad about myself, I ended up reaching out to the guy whose website I looked at last week, acknowledged him for the good work he is doing, and asked if we could connect. It felt good and liberating to do that. The more excited we’re willing to get for other people’s success, talents, and experiences – the more likely we are to manifest positive feelings and outcomes in our own lives. There is not a finite amount of success or fulfillment – and when we acknowledge people we compare ourselves to, we remind ourselves that there is more than enough to go around and that we’re capable of experiencing and manifesting wonderful things in our own life as well.

How often do you compare yourself to others? How does this impact your life, relationships, and sense of yourself? What can you do to let go of this habit and be more loving, accepting, and appreciative of yourself? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog here.

To listen to this week’s audio message, including additional thoughts, ideas, and tips, click here.

Photo: CC Flickr//madamepsychosis

 

Boost Your Confidence With Better Mirrors

Where do your messages of self-worth come from?  Take a close look at the people you choose to keep in your inner circle;  your friends, family members, co-workers and others  that you spend the most time with.  These are the people who are giving you feedback all of the time about your value.  Their body language, tone of voice and, of course, their words send signals about what they think of you and your value to them. 
 
Why is this important?  Most of us see ourselves through the eyes of others.  We tend to evaluate our worth and sense of self on how other people react around us and to us. If you think for a moment, the words you use to describe yourself have probably been spoken to you by someone else, or they are based on how someone once reacted to you. So much of our self-image and self-confidence comes from the feedback we get from those closest to us.  It’s human nature to accept this feedback as truth. 
 
The problem comes when our mirrors are filled with their own negative self-images. Hopefully your circle is filled with people who see their own light and are looking to raise the consciousness around them.  But if not, then you could go a long way to building your own self-confidence by simply changing the kinds of people who you spend time with.
 
While you’re evaluating your inner circle, think about the children in your life.  Whether you are a parent, teacher, caregiver, doctor, or anyone who deals with children regularly, remember that they start forming their self-confidence as babies.  That’s right, babies and young children are more sensitive to the tone and energy that is around them and they will begin to use those experiences as a foundation on which they determine their worth.  If the adults around them are always unhappy, frustrated, sad or chaotic,  it would not be uncommon for the child to grow up feeling that they are a source of discomfort to other people. They will likely continue to seek in groups throughout life where that message continues to be reinforced. 
 
Conversely, if a child is surrounded by confident, loving and self-assured adults who are happy and positive, they are likely to grow up assuming that this is normal.  They will continue to seek out that kind of person for all of their friendships and work endeavors. What message do you want to give to a child?
 
Make 2010 the year that you evaluate who influences your sense of self as well as who you influence.  Your whole life could shift by simply changing a few relationships.
 
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