Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Gifts of Imperfection: Being Worthy

Brené Brown wrote a beautiful book titled “The Gifts of Imperfection”, which is a blessing, especially to those of us who are recovering perfectionists. She has collected thousands of stories all over the country and found that we all struggle with shame and the fear of not being enough. As a result, many of us are afraid to be our true selves.  She found that how much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but loving ourselves and embracing our vulnerability is even more essential, for our own sake and for those who are close to us.

But how do we embrace ourselves, just the way we are, including all of our imperfections? Oftentimes, we have knowingly or unknowingly created some sort of list that we have to satisfy first, before we “are worthy.” 

Things like:
I’ll be worthy if I lose twenty pounds.
I’ll be worthy if I can get pregnant.
I’ll be worthy if I make partner (or become a manager, director, VP, have a successful business, etc.)
I’ll be worthy if everyone thinks I am a good parent.
I’ll be worthy when my parents finally approve.
I’ll be worthy if I have a boyfriend/girlfriend (get engaged, get married, etc.)

It never ends. Once we finally reach one item on our list, we focus on a new one. We have to get to the point where we believe that we are worthy now. Not if or when we reach a certain goal. We are worthy and we are enough RIGHT NOW. There is nothing we need to accomplish first.

I used to have several items on my list I needed to accomplish successfully in order to feel worthy. There was always the next higher work title I needed to get to (first manager, then director etc.) I wanted my parents’ approval. Then there were all the day-to-day goals. What is on your list of things you need to satisfy before you are worthy?

Next time: How to believe that you are worthy right now

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Are you your best friend or worst enemy?

I still see so many tributes people are posting about music legend Whitney Houston. Clearly her sudden passing has touched many. In a 2002 interview, TV journalist Diane Sawyer asked Whitney Houston what she considered the "biggest devil" among her failings. Houston answered: "Nobody makes me do anything I don't want to do. So the bigger devil is me, I am either my best friend or my worst enemy."

Looking from the outside, Houston had it all: beauty and talent, great fame, and huge financial success.  However, what she was feeling on the inside was a different story. What made her resort to alcohol, start taking drugs, and stay in a destructive marriage with Bobby Brown? It doesn’t matter how great things look on the outside – it’s how you feel on the inside that counts. Being famous and in the spotlight creates a lot of pressure: to look good, to perform well, and to sound good. It pushes you beyond your comfort zone, creating fear and anxiety. And it’s easy to feel “not good enough” or “imperfect” if you are constantly being watched, reviewed, and criticized by others. 

Whether you are your best friend or worst enemy is the key. If you are truly your best friend, then you will know that you are always enough, that you are perfect the way you are and that it is completely fine to make mistakes.  It doesn’t matter what everyone else says. If you are your worst enemy, you will always feel that you not good enough, judge yourself for all your imperfections and criticize yourself for every mistake you make.

It doesn’t matter whether we are famous or not – we all grapple with similar issues. Every time we try something new, we push beyond our comfort zone and might feel anxious. There are others around us who may voice their opinions and criticisms, and we have to decide whether we listen to them or not. 

How do you deal with your everyday pressures? Are you your best friend or your worst enemy? 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Will you love me unconditionally?

All of us are looking for love. Whether we are single and looking for a partner or in a relationship and want to feel more love from the person we are with. And what we want most of all is unconditional love: Feeling loved for just the way we are, even when we are not at our best. So we seek this unconditional love and are disappointed when we don’t find it. Yet how often do we give unconditional love, especially to ourselves?

How do you treat yourself when you don’t finish something on time, make a mistake, or act in a way you didn’t want to? Do you love yourself unconditionally or do you criticize and blame yourself? 

And how about when a loved one is late, does something to annoy you, or acts in a way you didn’t want them to?  Do you love him or her unconditionally or do you criticize and show your annoyance?  

I believe that it all starts with ourselves. If we don’t love ourselves unconditionally, forgive ourselves, and treat ourselves with compassion and understanding, it makes it difficult to do the same for others.

So I invite you to bring more unconditional love into your life by being kind to yourself. Forgive yourself.  If you have a pet, a friend, or a partner who is showing you love, return the same love not only to them, but feel it also for yourself.  Love yourself, so you can love the ones you care about. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Don’t Take Anything Personally

If you have read Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements”, “Don’t Take Anything Personally” is the second agreement he encourages us to adopt.  He explains: “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”  That sounds great, but it’s easier said than done. How can we stop taking things personally?

I believe that it all comes back to loving yourself. If you truly accept and love yourself – your body, your mind, your soul – then nothing anyone else says can hurt you. If someone says you are too big or too short, it doesn’t matter - because you know you are perfect the way you are. If someone says that you are stupid, clumsy, too much, inconsiderate, or too different, it doesn’t matter – because you know that there is nothing wrong with you and you love yourself the way you are. The only reason something hurts us is if we believe that it is true.

“But if I think that I am perfect the way I am, then I will never grow and I won’t improve! And I know that I have ‘flaws!’”, you may think.  Yes, of course we all have things that we may want to work on. And that’s ok. But don’t hold out on loving yourself, just because you haven’t reached a certain ideal yet. If we love ourselves, it doesn’t mean that we stop to grow. It actually makes it easier to change because we are being compassionate with ourselves and are using positive reinforcement as opposed to criticizing and blaming ourselves and using negative reinforcement. (You can look at my post from last week to read more about self-compassion.)

So invite you to continue to practice loving yourself, so you don't take things personally. If someone says something to you and you notice that you are starting to take it personally, take a deep breath and be kind to yourself. What are you believing that makes you take this personally? That you are not good enough, not perfect, not a good Mom, or not a good person? Be kind and compassionate with yourself. It's ok. Everyone has something to work on. You are still a good person. You are still loved.