Creating my happy life on the other side of fear.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Be secure in yourself and nobody can use it against you


I used to be hyper-aware of my faults. From everything that I perceived was wrong with my body to my character flaws, they haunted me. I hungrily devoured every magazine article with the word "make-over" in it, eager to learn how to become a better version of myself. On the outside, I tried to improve my perceived imperfections by hiding my round bum in baggy tops, plucked my thick eyebrows almost into oblivion, and dyed my mousy hair a more vibrant colour. I exercised with grim determination, hating every minute of it, but punishing myself for being too flabby, for eating too much yesterday, for not being slimmer and daintier.   

Hiding my character flaws was more difficult. In my mind, lots of things were wrong with me: I was too sarcastic. Too sharp-tongued. Too moody. Difficult. I complained too much when I had to do something I didn't want to.  I was impatient. 
All these were the labels that someone had given me at some point, usually a family member. Did I question them? No. I believed them, and felt like I must be a pretty horrible person. On the inside, I loathed myself; but on the outside, I was defensive. As soon as I felt like someone was criticizing me, I lashed out at them. It never occurred to me that 
a) these descriptions might be wrong, or
b) if they were right, that it was okay

I believed I had to better myself. So I kept trying to change my character. And I kept failing at it. The other alternative was to hide my true self in an effort to be more likeable. It worked better with friends than with family, because they didn't know me as well. But I was constantly afraid that they would discover my  flaws sooner or later, and would be horrified at what they saw, dropping me in an instant. 

What an existence. When you believe that nobody will like you when they find out who you really are, you are always afraid. Fear and self-loathing were never far away.
But being worried about what others are thinking of you isn't the worst of it - the worst is when you don't like yourself.  

I had an image in mind of how I should be: Always in control, slow to anger, patient, to never say something I might regret later, willingly doing as I was told, with a flawless complexion and a boyishly small butt. Basically, the opposite of what I was.

It took me years to learn to love myself. It seemed wrong somehow, almost frivolous - to have a high opinion of oneself was frowned upon when I grew up. Being modest was the ideal to strive towards, and there didn't seem to be a distinction between being boastful and self-assured. I was a hot mess of conflicting emotions, portraying a confidence I didn't feel, appearing full of myself when I was  in actuality feeling tiny and insecure.

But here is the good news: I did learn to love myself. And so can you! Here are the three steps that helped me transition from "I'm not that into you" to "You and I 4ever".
Let's call it the ABCs of self-love, okay? Okay.

The most important lesson is simple, like all great lessons are:

Acceptance.

Accept yourself for the way you were made. We all get different talents and gifts when we are born, and have to learn how to use them. Be grateful for them! Don't listen to the criticism of others - get to know yourself and accept everything that makes you, you. 

Look at the things you don't like about yourself in a new light, from a different perspective. Nothing is only good or bad, everything has two sides. Imagine how you would comfort a good friend bemoaning something they don't like about themselves. We always see the positive in the people we love - do the same for yourself!

Belief. 

Believe not only the negative comments, but also the positive ones. You know how we tend to focus on the one criticism amongst a multitude of praise? It's crazy, but we do. Break that cycle by stopping to feed into the negative self-talk. We all have believes about ourselves that are often not true. You may have been laughed at as a kid during PE for the way you run, and accepted that as the truth. Even years later you have never attempted to go for a run, because you have the conviction that you can't.
Question the limitations you set for yourself, and see if they are real - you may find that they aren't.

When I was in high school, I hated math with a passion. I believed I couldn't do it, so guess what? I couldn't do it.
Ten years later I decided I wanted to go to x-ray school, and in order to get in I needed to not only re-do Math 12, but also pass it with a B. I decided to start fresh, ignore my past, and see what the fuss with math was all about. While I will never love it (absolutely never, ever), I was surprised that I could actually wrap my mind around it if I had to. Huh, who would have thought? I did get my B, and in the process gained some self-respect for my brain - apparently I was more capable than I had given myself credit for.

Change the story.     

That negative voice in your head that has been keeping you small all these years? You can shut her up! And it's about time, too. I am very well acquainted with that voice, we go way back.

If you ask a child what they are really good at, they can tell you without hesitation. Without false modesty or self-deprecation, they will enthusiastically launch into how fast they can run, or how good they can ride, or easy math is for them.
Somewhere along the rocky path of growing up, we lose this confidence. But we can get it back! We already have it in us to be proud of our accomplishments, and why shouldn't we? There is nothing wrong with that.

The negative self-talk that is on an endless loop in many of our heads doesn't work. Has it improved our behaviour, or weight, or whatever else it is we are not happy with? Absolutely not. It is damaging to the soul, it makes us feel awful about ourselves, and it causes us to talk bad not only about ourselves, but about others as well. How about we try a different approach: Be kind to ourselves. Treat ourselves with love and respect. Give it a try, and see what happens!

Instead of berating myself for all the things I should have done or could have done, I have this little mantra that I repeat whenever necessary: I did the best I could. 
It helps me to accept the past, which I can't change, and to be at peace in the present. It also motivates me to do the best I can right now for the future.

Those six words have helped me more than you can imagine. They not only helped me be much kinder towards myself, but also towards other people.

Try it: Next time when you want to grumble yet again about something your parents did to you when you were younger, stop and consider this: They surely made mistakes, because we all do. But they did the best they could.
Accepting that as the truth will give you peace, understanding, and compassion.

There is a quote by Tina Lifford that I love:

"When you know yourself, you are empowered. When you accept yourself, you are invincible."    
Let's all work on becoming invincible! We can do it.







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