Tag Archives: self esteem

When working on yourself doesn’t feel like you’re working on yourself

When you’re in pain and life is hard; when your self esteem is at its low point and you are struggling. As you work on your issues, you work through painful feelings and you feel like this struggle counts as ‘working on yourself’, and it is. One way of coping through difficult times is by listening to music. You can listen to happy music that inspires you and changes your mood. Or you can, like I have preferred doing, listen to music that expands or plays out your feelings in way that you are not able to. The song helps you emote.

The video above is best reflects my self-esteem when it’s at its lowest point. I imagine my self-esteem taunting me sarcastically in the lyrics to this song. Paradoxically, it makes me feel better.

Another way of working through feelings is by using sound. Sound without a melody and without lyrics. The focus is on the vibration of the notes, and the harmony between the notes. Using sound and vibration for healing does not rely on words to process the feelings. It does not require the use of the left side of your brain – the logical, thinking side.

A simple practice that you can do to begin understanding the use of sound as a healing tool is toning. Toning helps with reaching a meditative state and getting some vibrational movement into your body and through your energetic fields.

Sit down in a comfortable position, sit cross legged on the floor; or in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Preferably without shoes on.

Do 1:2 breathing: Inhale slowly through your nose, hold your breath briefly and then exhale slowly through your mouth. While inhaling, count up – for example when I inhale slowly I can count (in my head) up to 10. So then, on the exhalation, double it to 20.

When you feel comfortable, on the exhalation instead of silently breathing out, start toning by saying vowels. Say each vowel 3 times to start. As you say each of these vowels, place your hand on your heart chakra and notice the vibration that each vowel creates. Place your hand on your solar plexus or throat chakra and see if you can feel the vibration. Experiment with different notes, different vowels to see what you feel. Don’t worry if you can’t actually feel the vibration initially, the vibrational energy follows your intention.

As you do this on a regular basis, you may notice a greater affinity to a particular vowel; so you can feel free to say that particular vowel more often.

say ‘aaah’ (as in ‘pot’)

say ‘ehh’ (as in ‘fest’)

say ‘eee’ ( as in ‘feet’)

say ‘oh’ ( as in ‘fold’)

say ‘u’ ( as in ‘food’)

If you are new to using sound as a way of healing, toning through difficult times may not feel like you are ‘working on yourself’, but it is! One aspect of toning is the meditation which is calming; and then the toning vibration clears up emotional and energetic blocks that allows you to have greater clarity about your situation.

Let me know if you try this exercise and tell me how it goes! As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me or ask in the comments section.

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day – a day for us to renew our awareness of our connection to the Earth.  As we go through our daily routines, especially those of us that live in urban areas, it is easy to forget about the ground we walk upon.   It is deeper than the sidewalk in front of our house, the road that leaves town; or the bicycle lane that takes us to work.  Even in more rural areas, we may still focus on the day to day troubles and fail to contemplate the gifts of the earth.

Along with the idea that we need to take care of ourselves – mentally, physically and spiritually comes the much bigger notion that the earth is what sustains us all on each of these planes.  Our gratitude for our life does not begin nor end with our ‘thank you for this day’; it begins with the simple actions that enhance or diminish our lives on a daily basis, that also enhance and diminish the quality of life on earth.  Think about it.  Think about the things you do to enhance your own personal well being.  There should be no incongruity between self-care and care of the earth.  The reverse holds true as well, if you know how to take care of the earth – you have the fundamental knowledge of how to take care of yourself.

doing the next right thing

Sometimes our thinking can get in the way of progress.  We complicate things beyond recognition and become immobilized.  The concept of ‘doing the next right thing’ is a way of removing the thinking clutter from our minds and focussing solely on the next step that will move you forward towards your desired goal.

Cognitive Distortion – Overgeneralization

Overgeneralization is a type of cognitive distortion where an individual generalizes a negative view based on one, or limited, experience. In this song, Billy Joel is singing to someone who has ‘over generalized’ – she has been hurt in and is unwilling to love again.

Does life stop after one is hurt or betrayed? Are there some things that are just too devastating that one simply just does not recover?

We look to people to inspire us, like the guy that cut off his hand in order to live while mountain climbing; or Elizabeth Smart who was held hostage for over 18 years; the triathlon guy who does triathlons with his son, who has cerebral palsy, in tow.

We look to these people and wonder whether we’d be able to face the challenge they faced. Meanwhile, we all face our own particular challenges that we see as ‘different’. Symbolically, are you willing to cut away an important part of you in order to survive? Are you willing to go to any lengths to accomplish something, even if it is harder for you than it is for most? Are you able to face down other people’s possible criticism or judgment? It is safer to fantasize about what would we do if we were mountain climbing and our hand got stuck under a rock; than it is to think about cutting away the dead end job or the unfulfilling relationship. We face similar questions in each situation – what will happen then? What if I don’t succeed? What if I regret my decision?

Overgeneralization can be a distortion that leads us to remain stuck.   It gives us the illusion of safety by avoiding taking any risks. Can we instead, learn from our errors, from the things that go wrong? Surely we can; we must, in fact, learn – even when or especially when the solution is more painful, at least in the short run, than the problem itself.

 

For more information on the above references:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aron_Ralston

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Smart_kidnapping

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Team_Hoyt

 

 

 

secondary gain

One thing to look at when thinking about unremitting problems is what is the secondary gain from staying stuck?  Just as an alcoholic who gets sober suddenly finds themselves with a whole lot of time on their hands, so do others who make significant changes in their life.   What would you be doing if you didn’t have your situation?  Do you know?

Looking at this a little more concretely, we can look at alcoholism.  With the elimination of alcoholic drinking, an individual will then have a whole lot of time, and probably extra money, on their hands.  There is no more time spent hungover, recovering from the night before; and no more time spent ruminating about the all too vague semi- recollections of what was done while drinking; no more time spent regretting or in remorse, apologizing, for something done while ‘tight’.  An important part of the recovery process is finding healthy ways to fill that void, otherwise, there is a greater risk of relapse.

When other types of changes are made, the same thing happens : you are left with a whole lot of time that you don’t know what to do with.  There are life-cycle changes that are (more or less) out of your direct control, such as all the children  growing up and leaving the house;  or the death of someone you have been caregiving for years.  You are then suddenly faced with what are you now going to do with yourself.

There are some problems, though, that are more under our direct control – possibly more than we see right now.  Sometimes, on some semi-conscious or unconscious level, we keep our problem in play.  We become an actor in the play of our life, new people come into the picture, but they are all signing up for a repeat performance of our same script; we think we are starting new relationships, but we quickly find ourselves repeating the same old tired lines.  Always getting into the same type of relationship; the sense of feeling betrayed or hurt in the same manner, by different people.  It’s not so much that we find exactly the same type of person, but that we have the same types of reactions/fears/expectations.  What is the secondary gain in repeating this same type of scenario?  What are you missing, or avoiding, by not changing or moving on?

 

 

 

 

making changes

Anaïs Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”

Changing is difficult; taking risks; going down a new path.  Familiar misery feels safer than the unknown leap into something we desire.

At times, it is difficult to really see ‘why’ is nothing changing “even though I desire it so?”.  One difficulty is that an individual looks at the horizon, their goal or destination but then does not look at where their feet are planted, nor do they take the next step.   All these inspirational messages are for naught when we cannot apply them to our own lives.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”.  Hmm – how does this relate to my own complicated life?  This sounds sweet, but my situation is unique.   The distance between the present and the destination appears insurmountable.  I’m different.  Or worse yet, I’m not different, I’m just a loser, a dreamer that won’t get anywhere.  I know better, but still I don’t do it.

Looking at this through a ‘cognitive -behavioral’ perspective, how you look at yourself and the steps you need to take is what ultimately helps or hinders you.  The most common reasons that an individual doesn’t take the ‘first’ or the ‘next’ step are:

it’s not enough

I need to do more than that

If it’s already months/years later and you are still saying the same thing to yourself, it’s time to look at this more closely.  It’s time to turn this around and do it even though you don’t think it’s enough.  Make the step so easy, that you know that you could do it with your eyes closed.  So small, that when you’re done, you feel like taking more steps.  Don’t!  But you already know the drill.  You then burn yourself out, and stop altogether.  Keep things slow and steady; take it very slow and keep it easy.

For every step forward – you will still have to contend with your self esteem and self confidence that will start clamoring for you to go back to bed or to do more than you planned.

Making changes is difficult; one cannot do this alone – if you could, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now.  It’s important to get others involved in the changes you want to make.  Sometimes it’s good to get someone outside of your primary support network.  Sometimes they may have their own stakes in whether or not you change.  Getting involved in a support group with others who are trying to make similar changes is one way to expand your network of support.  Getting a therapist is another.

What changes have you been wanting to make?   Do you keep making the same plan over and over again, expecting it to be different this time?  Do you stop yourself before you even start?  It’s time to turn to the sun and unfurl your petals.

 

practice makes progress

Practice makes progress.  You can aspire to perfect, possibly, but only if this aspiration does not leave you feeling like you are eternally falling short.  Self esteem and self confidence come from doing esteemable things.  Doing those things that you would admire yourself for if you were to do them regularly, if they were part of your identity.  What could those things be?  Having plants that live because you are able to take care of them.  Pets that thrive and are happy.  Calling people back.  Not gossiping.  Saying no when you want to say no.  Asking for what you need.  Asking for a raise.  Being a hard worker.  These are only a few.  Some are big and long term – like having a pet, and some involve less steps, but not necessarily less intense – like calling someone back.

The other aspect to this is that you may be very successful in one area of your life – you may be very successful on your job; or successful as a parent or very outgoing.   Sometimes people hang their hat on their strengths and avoid looking at their limitations.  Part of becoming well rounded – emotionally, physically and spiritually fulfilled – you need to look at the aspects of yourself that are not working for you.

Working on improving some aspect of yourself does not take away your successes or your strengths.  In fact, often times, your strengths are usually the source of your weakness when in a different context.   Take a look at your strengths and your limitations.  No matter what you may be thinking, you do have both.  Are you feeling emotionally, physically, and spiritually satisfied with what you are doing?