Saturday, October 31, 2009

Healing Your Self Worth

There are those of us who have experienced multiple abuses, traumas, betrayals, and violations. When this happens it is only natural to begin to feel you are not as worthy of protection or value as others who have not had these experiences. This is especially the case when there were persons who knew what was happening to you and did not intervene. The challenge here is to not let the way others treat you dictate the way you feel about yourself.

The language that comes to mind is a term that we often think about on a large scale, but not as an individual and the term is “human rights”. Fundamentally there are certain things that no one should be subjected to and the violations that happened to your body, heart, mind, or spirit should not have occurred. When people trespass your boundaries and trust that reflects something about them and not something about you.

Even though people may not have recognized your worth, you are worthy of respect, kindness, compassion, and concern. Dysfunction in individuals, families, communities, and even nations manifest itself in various forms of abuse. While there are things each of us can do to reduce the risk of violation, the truth is violation happens every day to people of all walks of life.

In terms of the healing journey, it is very difficult to believe in a “you” that contradicts the “you” that others have tried to define; however this is exactly what you need to do. The truth is you are not ugly. You are not stupid. You are not worthless. Once you begin to shed the shame and challenge the lies, you will get a glimpse of your true identity. This process can be challenging and many find the support of a therapist very helpful along the way. There are, additionally, a number of things you can do for yourself:

• Listen and discern which people in your life promote positive messages about you versus those who seek to bring you down. Spend time with the positive and minimize or eliminate time with the negative.

• Recognize and interrupt yourself from engaging in negative self-talk about your worth.

• Examine the evidence: Look honestly at the things you have managed to get right. The list may be short but the more confident you feel the more you will be able to see your strengths.

• Determine the root of the myths. Who told you these degrading things about yourself and how did it benefit them for you to believe these myths? On the other hand, how will it affect you and those around you if you begin to think more positively about yourself?

• Be patient with yourself. When you have endured a lot, it takes time to heal.

Remember most of all that there is no room for abuse and no excuse for violation. It is important that a part of you holds on to this truth. When you can begin to glimpse this reality, you will feel differently and become more comfortable living a life of fulfillment and empowerment.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Life Balance

There are times that we can get consumed by our career, ambition, work, and to-do lists. This can lead to stress on our minds, bodies, and spirits. It is so important that we learn to live in balance. Being successful professionally while our families fall a part is very problematic. Likewise climbing the corporate or educational ladder but neglecting our spirits is a set-up for an unfulfilled life. When we don’t live in balance, we end up burned out. When we don’t live in balance, we end up confused and frustrated by the seeming contradiction between vast emptiness next to a growing list of accomplishments, promotions, or degrees.

At the same time, there are those of us who live off-balance in the other direction. When we spend all of our time in leisure mode we also can experience a sense of dissatisfaction. Hours of reality television, perpetual napping, snacking, and shopping can heighten feelings of depression. Even in the realm of spirituality, there is a saying that “some people are so heaven-bound that they are no earthly good”. In other words, if all my focus is on eternity, I can miss out on the blessing of the present moment.

So we have to strive to live with balance. Work, leisure, family, community, generosity, and spirituality are all important parts of life. The only way to fit them all in is to make time. We have to be pro-active about our schedules. Ecclesiastes says there is a time for every purpose under the sun. Make time to pursue your passion, take time to rest, create space and time to be with those you love, protect time and resources to share with those beyond your immediate circle, and definitely carve out time to do those things that nourish your spirit. When we live in balance, we experience greater satisfaction and we are better able to show up to the task at hand without bitterness, fatigue, or frustration.

Assess your life. Does your schedule reflect your priorities? To be realistic, I know sometimes we have to work longer hours given our financial situation. Even with those demands, make time for you even if it means waking up earlier so you can start your day from a place of balance. It may also mean looking down the road to determine if this is the pace at which you want to live your life. If it is not, what can you begin to do now so that in the future you can shift to a place of better balance? That may mean going back to school or a training program. It may mean looking for a position at a different location or it may mean turning off the internal voice that is seeking to measure your worth by your level of busyness. While there are external pressures, you can make living in balance a valued priority that guides your decision making in every aspect of your life.

Press pause and seek balance. Breathe and balance.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Heal Your Relationship With Money

The way you think and feel about money creates and sustains financial habits that can benefit you or harm you. Take a moment to think about the messages you learned growing up about money. Did your parents or guardians demonstrate to you materialism, greed, generosity, or good budgeting? Regardless of how much money you earn, your decisions can waste or maximize your resources. Let’s consider some of the money mindsets that need to be healed.

First there are those of us who feel that possessions determine our self worth. When we don’t feel good about ourselves, no amount of name brand clothing, shoes, or jewelry will fill our inner void. When we look for indicators of financial wealth to validate who we are as people, we end up spending money we don’t have to impress people we don’t know. We sometimes see this on college campuses where students who come from the most financial need are often the best dressed. In those instances, we are trying to avoid the appearance of poverty. We want to prove we belong and look for the outer appearance to give us credibility. Another example is when everything is falling a part in our lives and we do retail therapy. We go and buy things for the temporary happiness, not realizing that our true emptiness has not been addressed. We have to begin to place priority on working on the inner person before dressing the outer person. We have to begin to put our financial priorities in line with our life priorities. We have to decide if we want to look like a million bucks while being miserable or do we want to invest our resources in things that will actually transform our lives for the better.

Another money mindset difficulty is found in those of us who have inherited a sense of guilt about success. It is not horrible to have money, wealth, or status. The issue is what we do with what we have. Are we greedy or generous? Are we arrogant or kind? For those who grew up without or who grew up with religious teachings that equated wealth with sin, you may have mixed feelings about obtaining financial success. You may feel that you have somehow left behind your community, your family, or your sense of who you are. You do not have to sabotage your success in other to “keep it real” or in order to be a good person. You can be an authentic, appreciative, socially conscious, compassionate person of financial success if you make those your life values and commit to them. Recognize the opportunity and privileges that have been given to you and pass on the blessing to others through resources, information, and your time. What you have doesn’t make you better or worse than anyone else. You dictate your worth by the way you live your life.

One more money mindset challenge is one that is dominated by emotional distress. When I let fear dictate my money habits, I have to hoard my possessions and can never share. When I let shame dictate my money habits, I feel unworthy of nice things and so, even when I can afford to make other decisions, I live in and dress in conditions that re-affirm my shame. When I let denial dominate my money habits, I do not open my bills and refuse to make a budget. We have to come to a place of affirmation. When we approach our finances from a place of empowerment, discipline, and esteem, we can live with greater financial freedom.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Assertiveness: Come out of the box

We all have experiences that can leave us feeling boxed in, silenced, or powerless. People who assert themselves can be labeled trouble makers or demanding and yet we also see the very real cost of denying our needs. To understand our tendency to stifle ourselves, it is important to consider the roots. This may be uncovered in part in by thinking about the models you saw growing up. How did your parents or the persons who raised you handle conflict? Were you shown on a regular basis a lack of response in the face of intolerable situations?

Sometimes we have been placed in a box by cultural oppression. People may use unhealthy religious teachings to require your silence. Some faith teachings focus on women being subservient in the face of toxic, abusive situations or they may teach that all people should quickly forgive and forget no matter the offense. This does not leave space for healthy assertiveness or the confrontation of issues that need to be addressed. Culturally we may have also been taught by those within or outside of our community that going with the flow of things, even when they are not just, is the only way to survive. Finally sometimes we have had our voice, power, assertiveness taken through other traumatic experiences such as abuse, assault, and other forms of violence.

Regardless of what or who placed you in the box, it is important for your emotional well-being and livelihood that you come out. A part of being healthy is being able to communicate your identity, thoughts, and feelings. Of course to communicate those things I have to first know what they are. In other words, if I am asserting something I have no clarity about, it creates confusion. So first get clear about who you are and what you want. Then consider the dynamics. Successful assertiveness requires that you consider the timing, place, and person. Truth-telling is important but you can make or break the experience by when and where you choose to do it. We have to also consider the recipient of our communication. People have different personalities so if I respond to all people in a cookie cutter formulaic way, I will not reap the best benefits out of my social interactions. We lose out in some circumstances not because of what we had to say but the way in which it was said. When considering what to say, along with timing and content, be mindful that you are communicating clearly and when possible, calmly. There is nothing like attempting to assert yourself and no one knows what you are talking about. It is also not helpful when we are so overwhelmed that instead of tuning into our message, people became distracted by the level of our distress. Try to take a few deep breaths, before and during your communication. Don’t apologize for what you have to say. Look at the person directly. Convey a sense of seriousness. As we create an environment for mutual respect, we transform the situation for the better. Come out of the box and express yourself.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Self care

We live very busy lives, running between responsibilities, and attempting to balance many different hats. We need to schedule time for self care. We have to make the nourishing and resting of our spirits a priority. When we constantly give without making time to receive, we end up burned out, frustrated, irritated, and less productive. Running on empty, results in bodies and minds that one day protest in emotional and physical distress. There are many symptoms of stress and strain that we can prevent by routinely pressing pause on our lives.

Take time to rest, restore, reflect, and stretch. The truth is we often micro-manage, stress over things that are not important, and over-commit. We may over-commit because we are trying to prove ourselves or because we are uncomfortable setting boundaries. Self care however is necessary for your health. We have to learn to say “no” to some things, so we can say “yes” to thinks that truly matter to us.

Living life eating out of vending machines or drive thru windows does not honor the sacredness of our temples. Living life without resting does not honor our health. There are occasional times when we have to sacrifice to meet a deadline or complete a special project but that should not be our normal state of being. Re-order your life such that you can work smart and not just work hard. Make your emotional and physical well-being a priority and protect time for you.

Self care begins with your morning routine. Instead of waking up at the last minute and having to run out of the door, make a point of rising early enough for you to get centered and grounded to start your day from a calm place. There are ways that you can re-set the pace of your life. Consider the ways you can slow down and take steps to make it happen. Begin to schedule seasons of pause into your life. There is a time for every purpose so take time to reflect, restore, and revive. You, your health, and your peace of mind, are worth protecting.