Saturday, September 26, 2009

Confronting Your Fears

Fear is the anxious feeling we have about a potential negative outcome. Fear can block us from going places, meeting people, and even following our dreams. People have all different fears, including but not limited to fear of social situations, public speaking, dogs, flying, heights, success, failure, crowded spaces, driving, certain people, and even being alone. The challenge becomes how to confront and overcome the fears that are controlling your life or that are keeping you from fulfilling your potential.

There are several strategies that are helpful in addressing your fears. One is learning how to calm your anxious reactions. Sometimes just anticipating a negative outcome can increase our fears tenfold. You have the capacity to calm yourself. Practice taking deep breaths. Begin to tighten and relax your muscles starting with your face and working all the way down to your feet. Ground yourself in the present moment instead of worrying about the future or past. You can even practice visualization. Visualize a peaceful place – it may be a place that was safe and inviting the last time you were there or it may be a place you have only visited in your imagination. Visualization, deep breathing, and muscle relaxation are good skills for preparing to face your fears.

Another strategy is getting real about the evidence. In other words there are people and places that are not safe, so there are times when you need to follow your gut when you feel fear and then there are other times when you can recognize that the amount fear that you feel does not match the situation. So start to look realistically at what could go wrong if you face your fears and the likelihood of those things occurring. When you determine that some things could go wrong, just consider the worst case scenario and weigh the consequences if it does occur. If you speak in public your hands may shake a little at first or you may trip, but are those two occurrences enough to block you from talking about something that is important to you or doing something that is important for your job or school success?

Along with relaxation skills and thinking through your fears, another important strategy is to consider the benefits. If you face your fear, what will you gain? You may gain the ability to socialize, to meet people, to follow your dreams, to improve your self esteem, and to face your past instead of running from it. All of there are worthwhile accomplishments as you plan to move forward. You may also want to break down your fears into smaller steps so you can steadily move forward without having to do it all at once. A final helpful courage boost is the presence of someone who believes in you and is supportive. This may be a friend, family member, therapist, minister, support group members, or romantic partner. It should be someone who has a calming effect on you and not someone who increases your anxieties.

The truth is simply considering facing your fears in a powerful step in the right direction. Step by step, you can overcome the barriers that are blocking you. You can move forward not simply because the fear goes away but you can move forward with the courage in spite of the fear. Dare to step out – life is waiting for you!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Friendship: To find a good friend be a good friend

As human beings we often desire connection, relationship, and community. Most of us experience the need to be known, understood, and appreciated. Often our patterns of friendship have followed us over the years from childhood to adulthood. In fact some of our relationship patterns may mirror the types of relationships we saw in the lives of those who raised us. The important thing to remember is that friendship is a two-sided relationship so we can actively play a role in determining the type of friends we seek and retain.

There are different unhealthy patterns you may notice in your friendships that you would like to change. You may always be the giver and never have friends who reciprocate. You may find yourself surrounded by very superficial friends but when crisis comes they are no where to be found. You may notice that you always have volatile, high drama, short term friendships that usually end poorly. On the other hand you may notice that you don’t trust anyone and end up being a loner most of the time. Whatever the pattern, be encouraged by the fact that you can make decisions to improve the quality of your relationships.

The first key is you need to know yourself and be comfortable with who you are. If you are insecure and looking for others to define you or to give you self worth, you may be setting yourself up for superficial or one-sided relationships. You will draw kindred spirits so if you are confident and comfortable with yourself, you will be able to connect with people who have those same qualities.

Secondly be the kind of friend you want others to be. In other words it doesn’t work to say you want a loyal, kind, generous, fun-loving friend, if you do not possess those qualities. We model our definition and expectations for friendships by our behavior. So work on being a better friend if you would like to draw better friends.

Next be mindful of the people you select as friends. Choose friends based on common interests, mutual respect, shared good times, and the ability to be there for each other in moments of joy and moments of despair. Choose friends who you can trust to tell you the truth even when it’s hard. Choose friends who want to see you happy and successful. Choose friends over time. Instead of being best friends in one hour, take time to get to know people and to give them time to know you.

Finally develop the capacity to know which friendships are for a season and which ones are for life. If someone has shown herself to not be a good friend, your decision to spend all of your time with that person blocks the opportunity to connect with people who may actually be a positive presence in your life. On the other hand, life long friendships will have some challenges and disagreements, but when the friendship is important enough and authentic enough, you can work through the difficulties. Only you and your friend can determine the course of your friendship. So take time to really look at the situation and to be honest with yourself and each other.

Remember most of all, true friendship makes both of you better people. Friends are a source of light, affirmation, and truth. Treat them the way you want to be treated.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Body Image: A healthy look in the mirror

There are so many messages we receive daily that make us question our appearance. Whether the messages come from the media, friends, family, or strangers, we are often appraised based on our physical attributes. We are all, to some degree, affected by what has been called the “American Beauty Myth”. This myth determines who is worthy of the title “beautiful”. We are told to eliminate people based on their skin complexion, hair texture, facial features, height, weight, and figure. This myth can dismantle our self esteem while we are still too young to resist these false assumptions.

It is not only a matter of what we come to believe but what others believe as well. Research shows that children who are deemed attractive are treated better and perceived in a more positive light by both teachers and peers. Many people decide a person’s worth based on arbitrary notions of beauty. Judgments based on looks can affect how we are treated in school, work, and especially in social settings. These perceptions can even unfortunately affect the way parents treat their children.

What is the result of negative body image? Its evidence is found in many of our behaviors, including but not limited to: the amount of money we spend on cosmetic products and plastic surgery, the growing number of males and females with disordered eating, and the way we settle for relationships in which we are demeaned and disrespected.

The truth is beauty comes in many forms: from dark to light, full figured to thin, short to tall, long hair to shaven heads. If we could take all of the energy invested in covering up are so called plainness or ugliness, imagine what we could do with our lives. When we can see the beauty in ourselves, we engage in the world with more confidence and compassion. True beauty is not based on having to judge one’s self against other people, but being able to truly recognize and appreciate the diverse beauty all around us. Challenge yourself today and everyday to ignore the mythical images of airbrushed supermodels and video vixens and come to love the woman or man in the mirror. It is not always easy but as you begin to strive for self love and acceptance, you will see a whole new level of self esteem supporting you throughout your day. When you feel good about you, you are in a better position to walk into your destiny.

So here are a few practical steps to improving your body image:
 Reject the myth that beauty only comes in one form.
 Eat healthy foods that make you feel positive.
 Engage in healthy amounts of exercise.
 Get adequate rest so you can face the stress of the day.
 Remember regardless of other people’s opinions, you define your beauty.
 Surround yourself with people who are affirming and not disrespectful.
 Think of three physical attributes that you like about yourself.
 Refuse to judge people’s worth based on their appearance.
 Treat your body with respect.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Survival and Recovery

Survival and Recovery

You may have known silence and betrayal, but you are still here. You can break through the shame and nightmares. It is important to believe in the possibility of your change and remain motivated and committed to your healing.

There is healing in breath
There is healing in safe community.
There is healing in owning and telling your story in your time, at your pace, to those you trust to bear witness
There is restoration in taking time to let your muscles relax.
You have worked so hard, being on guard all day and all night.
And for so long you had to in order to survive.
But will you risk in this moment releasing muscle, tension, vigilance, distrust?
Will you in this moment imagine a place of peace?
Visualize a place where you are supported and know that you are not alone.

You may need an extreme self make-over because extreme stress, violence, and devastation, require renovation from the inside out.
You have had enough empty smiles, dead laughter, fake friendships.
There is recovery in your authenticity – your decision to be real with yourself and with others. You can come off of the stage, take off the mask and breathe. You can discover the person that lives and grows in spite of the symptoms, the self blame, and the should be’s.
Begin to remember what you have always known:
This valley has had an impact but it is not the sum total of who you are
There is more to you than scars, bruises, flashbacks, secrets, and over-stuffed baggage.
There is more to you than sleep issues and food issues and trust issues.
There is more to you than midnight and medication.
It’s time to give birth to your good morning song.

Begin by grounding yourself in the present.
Yesterday is gone.
The past is behind you.
Look around you and see this new day – one you have never seen before.
Embrace the possibilities of a new moment – a season to seek safety, sanity, wholeness, happiness, & well-being.

It is time to replace self harm with self affirmation. Move away from reliance on any form of coping that puts your mind, heart, body, spirit in jeopardy. In this season embrace self care. Care enough for yourself to let your body rest, to be mindful of what you put into your body, of reaching out to physical and mental health professionals who care about your well-being. In this moment consider the ways you have isolated yourself
Commit to breaking out and reaching out. There is strength in community, in sharing, in connecting across the abyss of fear.

True healing and recovery is not based on avoiding the past but facing it, working through it, and coming out on the other side whole. You will not be the person you were before, but you can emerge new. There is wisdom within you, courage within you, survival and thriving wings within you.

Do not surrender.
All is not lost.
You still have you.
Reach for recovery and revival.
Dare to find your laugh, your dance, your song, and your story.
You are a living, breathing testimony.
Your presence is a blessing.
There is purpose and meaning for your life.
The caterpillar days are over, time to make a shift out of the cocoon and show your radiant wings!