We all know those women – the ones who seem to glide in the room, smiling effortlessly, laughing infectiously and sparking conversation with whomever they please. They are not arrogant or conceited. In fact, the “air” about them also seemingly has nothing to do with their appearances. So what is it? Why are these beautiful creatures so alluring? Well, their secret is that they are unapologetically confident.
I think all of us women go through times where we feel “less than”. We base our self-worth on the phase “I’ll be happy when I am __________ (thinner, more successful, a mother, etc.)”. Did your mind easily fill in the blank? If this seems to be a reoccurring thought of yours, then I want you to understand that we not only just think this, but we continue to seek information that reinforces that this thought “must be true”. We do this by comparing. We compare ourselves to anyone and anything that will confirm these beliefs. Friends, social media, magazines, anything your mind can grasp as “proof”. When this pattern begins, it can run continuously and subconsciously, leaving you feeling drained, insecure, unworthy and unhappy. You cannot operate your life from an empowered place when all of your energy is used to suppress self-love. You replace your internal loving energy with criticism and self-doubt.
Enough is enough. Why can’t be just accept who and where we are right now? I have yet to meet someone who can predict the future, so why are we so focused on worrying about it? All we can control is how we feel about ourselves, today, in this exact moment. I think we are all incredibly amazing people, with unique personalities, skill sets and beauties. I’m begging for you to realize it. I’m begging you to free yourself.
I know this this may sound like a dream to some, genuinely feeling content with yourself. However, I am here to tell you that it is definitely possible. It is not going to be easy. It takes dedication and persistence, but you can re-discover a level of unwavering self-love that will nourish you everyday. The following are a few exercises I want you to try and begin using regularly.
Step 1: Become more self-aware
Awareness is the key to growth. It is the “first step” if you will, of tuning into who you are and how you feel. Awareness is also critical for creating space between you and the painful event or triggering episode that runs the risk of compromising how you feel, your self-worth and confidence. Triggering moments inundate you with a flood and cascade of emotions. If this is hard to grasp, then I urge you to tune into how you feel when you are in the grocery store and catch a glimpse of a photo-shopped woman on a magazine. Do you all of a sudden become more self-critical, adjust your clothing and lament about how the last diet “failed you”? If this sounds familiar, it is not isolated. Trust me, triggering events are in abundance around us. It is our awareness that prevents us from continuously noticing them. However, deep inside, they are noticed and noted. Self-awareness begins by tuning into these tendencies and mentally “stepping out of it” and becoming an observer.
So how is this done? All you have to do is recognize when something is occurring that has changed your thought pattern and subsequent emotions. Don’t analyze it, try to figure it out or “fix it”. Instead, just take note of what is going on in your body and mind. Breathe through it and see it to the end.
To be frank, this is never easy to do. It can be quite uncomfortable in the beginning. However what you do find after a while is this awareness practice takes the sting out of triggering moments. The more present you become, the more balanced you will feel.
Step 2: Your thoughts are not your truths.
Ok, here’s the deal about our minds: they lie. Or at the very least bend the truth. Our minds love ease and comfort. If we spend much of our time perceiving our experience as negative, our mind categorizes this into “stories that you’re used to telling yourself”.
Many of us do not tune into our thoughts, let alone question them. This ties in well with my point above. We must begin to become objective when we are critiquing our thought patterns. Are they really true? Do you hear yourself saying always or never frequently? Take this as a cue that you are not taking the whole picture into account. You are not observing.
For instance, if you commonly say to yourself, “I’m too shy to talk to strangers”, think about examples that disprove this. What about this morning when you grabbed your coffee and chatted with the barista about the weather? Or when you complimented the cashier at the grocery store on the color of her lipstick? Or thanked the man that opened the door for you? Although these seem to be minor instances, they tell the tale, in fact you are not as shy as you may perceive yourself to be. As you start to notice instances that disprove the ways you discredit yourself, you’ll develop a more accurate, well-rounded view of whom you really are.
Step 3: Quit catastrophizing.
Sometimes we resist taking risks because we assume things will not work out as well as we hope, and we fear the disappointment associated with that. Many of us can think of the worst-case scenario so effortlessly when discussing certain situations and instantly picture our humiliation once we dive into that scenario.
What I propose is that we begin to think about ALL the possible outcomes – not just the most feared or awful. In fact, research shows continuously that we tend to overestimate how long negative feelings will affect you after a disappointment. So, perhaps even the worst-case scenario isn’t all its cracked up to be after all.
When I say think of all scenarios, I mean opening your mind to other possibilities, including the other end of the spectrum, the “just as unlikely” best-case scenario. This will give you a fresh perspective. Somehow we are so keen to pick up on the ridiculousness of thinking that something phenomenally amazing will happen to us, rather than understanding how equally un-probable it is that something horrendous will be the result. This approach provides a nice perspective shift. It lines things up on a spectrum of possibility rather than channeling all of your energy, concerns and fears down one deep, dark direction.
Step 4: Talk to yourself like you would a close friend.
I want you for a moment to picture your best friend, sister or daughter speaking to herself as you do. She uses the same tone, criticism and level of self-doubt. Does this notion make you feel slightly sick to your stomach, saddened and profoundly protective of them? We feel this because we love them and acknowledge that they are far too valuable and worthy to speak to themselves in such a way. So why do you? Unfortunately, we can be our own worst critics, reiterating detrimental thoughts and belief systems, consciously or subconsciously.
You do not deserve this! We are born with extraordinary minds, which can become your biggest asset or a devastating weapon. Try and tune into these patterns of thoughts. Contradict them with compassion, love and kindness. Anytime you find yourself being self-critical or negative, this is a sign that you are being triggered. That a wounded part of yourself is surfacing. We all have wounds from our past; it is a part of being human. Wounds are not something to stifle, bury and condemn, they are meant to be recognized, acknowledged and felt, fully.
Once you begin to embrace all the parts of yourself, something magical happens. All of a sudden, you become firmly planted in your own corner. You no longer need external reinforcement from possessions, people or accomplishments, in order to feel validated. You become “enough”, because you ARE enough.
Step 5: Remember, people are people.
Fear of rejection is a heavy concept. It is something that has permeated society so toxically. We spend so much of our time putting out a persona, hoping that it will be received well, and that we will not fall victim to the negative judgment of others.
One thing we must remember (and often) is that we are all just people, with various quirks, qualities and insecurities. Understanding that common thread of humanity in others can help make situations feel less threatening and allow you to connect with others on a deeper level. Do not put forth an edited version of yourself. You are fantastic and beautifully imperfect. I may not “know” you, but I do know that. As JFK once said, “there are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” What action would you like to make today?
The one in your corner – Dr. Mallory