5 Ideas To Help Power Your Fears Away

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Do you believe in signs? Do you believe that the universe tries to talk to us all the time but we can only hear the messages when we are ready? I do.

So my theme this year seems to be revolving around the multitude of times God has said “Don’t be afraid”. Ever since realizing that theme I have been so aware of my life moments when I know for sure I would have been too afraid to do something or say something but I purposefully now choose the path of bravery . This year it feels like the words “Don’t be afraid” have been like a shield of armor around me keeping fear at bay.

My attempts at living a life of “don’t be afraid” first played out in my wanting to volunteer. It was as if I had a calling from deep inside my soul to just do it; just put myself in the thick of where someone else had a need.

A year ago I was made aware that people only volunteer where they feel most comfortable; that it is rare that people will volunteer in places and activities they no nothing about or feel is too much away from people and a life they are accustomed to. So I thought about that and realized that I didn’t want to be that kind of person so I signed up to be a volunteer in the cancer center of a hospital. Too many scary, uncomfortable scenes played out in my head and that is how I knew it was the right thing to do. Choosing this particular quest met all of my criteria:

The idea was way outside of my comfort zone.

The idea was challenging both in time and location.

The idea was making me feel nervous and scared.

When you volunteer at a hospital you have to be tested for TB. That is a process in itself but for someone like me who hates pain of any kind and especially needles of any kind this was quite an undertaking; constantly forcing me to ask myself if volunteering at a hospital was really worth it, I mean after all I was also at this point volunteering to put myself through this pain and discomfort. A lot of deep breaths of courage later I made it through and couldn’t be happier to be doing what I’m doing.

I wanted most of all to be helpful and useful and purposeful to someone else; to get out of my own self. I got that.

I wanted to learn new skills and be challenged mentally and emotionally. I got that.

I wanted to see and feel how it would be to reach out to other people in a way that had no obligation back to me. I got that.

I wanted to see if I could get along with strangers purely because I wanted to be there and not be forced into a relationship because I “worked” there. I got that.

I wanted to learn what it would feel like to give of myself wholeheartedly, end of sentence. I got that.

What I got beyond what I was needing to explore and discover was priceless. If I were to get paid to do what I volunteer to do then what I do would become a job and it would lose it’s shine and power and magic. I don’t want that to happen.

Not long after I started volunteering I was called to interview with a temp agency; a job placement company that would help me build more of my skill sets and help me pull my financial weight for my family. I have been out of work part time or full time for too long of a time and getting the call for this interview seemed heaven sent. I accomplished the initial interview and 2 weeks later they found something for me. I quickly realized that I would have to stop volunteering. No way. I took the temp job and worked it out so that one day a week I could still volunteer and make up the work day I was missing on a Saturday. It meant going from no work days to working 6 days a week but I didn’t care. What I like about temping is that the temp job will end but the volunteering will last for however long I can last.

The one thing I noticed right away as a difference between a job and a volunteer position is how people respond to me. I am welcome with smiles and open arms as a volunteer and anything I do as a volunteer is appreciated with a multitude of “thank yous” but as a temp employee I am looked at as an interference in the work flow relationship and with a stand offish attitude. Not one thank you is ever uttered. The universe first warned me and then reminded me this past week to not take things personally and to not make assumptions about anything or anyone. The warning came just before the new work week started:

“Many people are really just sad people. They hurt others because they are hurting. Every person is born beautiful, and much of the ugliness in others was put inside of them by other hurting people.” Bryant McGill

I had to wonder if my personal silent thoughts really can be heard by God or was this just a freaky coincidence…..

And then came the reminder 2 days into the new work week:

“When someone is vicious toward you they are giving you a glimpse of the pain they carry in themselves. Viciousness is suffering.” Bryant McGill

Was my attention to these words more heightened because of my new circumstance? Maybe. The thing is, now that I have so much attention directed at “don’t be afraid” I see the things that naturally frighten me as a call to action through bravery and my new found shield of armor.

I sit in a cubicle (so not me) at this temp job and in the cubicle next to me is a guy who is just not friendly. He barely looks me in the eye or says hello when I say good morning, he rarely smiles and he makes every effort to be too busy to allow me to ask him any questions knowing full well that if I have a question he is the one I should go to. So, I avoid him at all costs except when I have absolutely no choice. My fear lies in the fact that I hate confrontation on every level. My palms sweat, my body shakes, and my mind goes blank. This week I had one moment where I had absolutely no choice and had to ask him a question. In my attempt at not being afraid I used as much humor as possible in communicating with him while remembering the quotes that were purposefully placed in my mind. You know, I actually made him laugh out loud for a tiny fraction of a second. It was monumental to me and it can’t be taken back. It happened and then it was gone.

“Remember this: Sometimes meeting someone has nothing to do with what you can provide for him or her and everything to do with what God needs you to recognize in that person. If you didn’t understand the message, God will keep sending the same person or situation into your life.” Shannon L. Alder

What I have learned is that possibly this is all in support of my “don’t be afraid” theme; all in support of helping me be a better me and helping me understand others better as well. I am trying everyday to understand the messages that are being sent to me and what it means to not be afraid. What I learned about myself was that I don’t really care what he thinks of me or my skill set. This job is temporary, he is temporary in my life because I saw a part of me handle his negativity with humor and a sense of whole being from my heart and I am changed. I am here to do a specific job and do it well and then move on. He’s stuck, I’m not. “Don’t be afraid” truly is my sword and shield. I truly believe that by my concentrating on what I want this year to mean for me the universe is supporting my endeavors.

Here are a few ideas that could help you get started on not being afraid:

Imagine your superhero self: Do you ever fantasize about what you would look like, sounds like and behave like if you weren’t afraid? Take out the fantasy from your mind and spirit and put it out there in reality. It will feel funny and uncomfortable at first but the more you try to see yourself as unafraid the more unafraid you will become.

Make fear your friend: Every time I give in to a fear that holds me back from experiencing a more meaningful life I hate myself for it. I find that I retreat deeper into a self protective shell and I never prove my bravery by letting fear hold me back. I decided that if I believe in teaching my children not be afraid of what life hands to them then I had better start being an example of overcoming the fears that I face in my life. The energy generated around facing a fear can be used to empower the actions necessary to jump into the fearful situation and make a success out of the experience.

Don’t procrastinate: If you find yourself in a confrontational situation and know for sure that you are afraid to deal with situations like that then that is all the more reason to deal with it right then and there. Sure you might not say or behave exactly fearless or supreme but the fact that you faced the fear and got through it is the beginning of more and more confidence to handle this and other fearful situations the next time it comes along. Don’t put off the life moments that are calling you to be in it. Face it, deal with it, move on from it. Procrastination breeds  fear. Bravery and courage breed confidence.

Choose your weapon: How do you want to arm yourself when confronted with fear? Do you want bible verses, do you want physical strength, do you want moral support, do you want an awesome wardrobe, do you want small experiences to help you build on toward the more challenging experiences? You get to decide how you arm yourself when facing fearful situations. Remember to practice with these weapons of choice and believe that all of your efforts are for a peaceful and purposeful outcome. Life is not meant to be run away from. We won’t learn anything if we run away. Meet life where it stands and arm yourself to be the best of yourself.

Stay in the light: Darkness of any kind whether it be darkness (lack) of education or darkness of faith or true darkness as the absence of light can be scary and make us feel unsure and fearful. Learn all you can about the fears you are wanting to deal with. Keep a light on in some form if true darkness zaps your moral courage. Know that you can always do something to help aid in your quest to not be afraid.

“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.” C. JoyBell C.

Call to Action

What are the signs you are not ready to read?

How can you pay more attention to intention?

Where do you want to change something in your life but are too afraid to do so?

When is the right time to face your fears and challenge your courage?

5 Ways to Find your Piece of Peace

 

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“World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not just mere absence of violence. Peace is, I think, the manifestation of human compassion.” Dalai Lama XIV

The dictionary defines the word peace first by 3 definitions relating to war:

  • A state in which there is no war or fighting
  • An agreement to end a war
  • A period of time when there is no war or fighting

The rest of the definitions are:

  • A state of tranquility or quiet
  • Freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
  • Harmony in personal relations

No matter how we each define peace at any particular time of our lives it seems that harmony and tranquility are the overarching states of mind, body and soul that we all look to achieve.

When you hear the word peace what images come to mind for you? If I were to create a vision board of peace these are the images I would include:

Blue sky, meditation, smiles everywhere, calm, soft music with a saxophone, walking on the beach, hot chocolate and a great book, candlelight dinners, hugs, hearts and flowers, and helpfulness. I’m absolutely sure I can come up with more to add to this list of peaceful visions but then this would get ridiculous.

For me, a piece of peace comes from cherished family moments and time spent with my children. I’m made more and more aware of this sense of peace now that the kids are living their own lives between working and going to college and being with their friends. They just are not home as much as they used to be.

Everything I knew about peace while the kids were home all the time included sports games, practice schedules, carpooling, community participation, time marked by seasons and school breaks; in essence the very much anticipated “routine” of raising a family. My personal piece of peace was in the doing and the busyness of a blessed life.

It was organized chaos and I thrived on the craziness of it. Now life has become unreliable and un-routine and un-peaceful for me because I find it hard to define my role as a parent. My routine and boundaries have been narrowed considerably now that the children are taking over their own lives. I can’t get lost in the management of the family anymore. However, there is a new piece of peace I have found and I found it in a very unlikely place; within me.

While being the very active, very attentive parent I was and while burying myself in my children and the running of the business of our family, I always put my needs and wants dead last and did not spend any time getting to know me as I was getting older alongside my children getting older. I paid way more attention to their changes and who they were becoming but not to my own changes. Time has been a friend and an enemy all along but I’m finding that it is for the children’s benefit now for me to become active and attentive and in search of my own needs and wants. I have a piece of peace within my own soul that I never expected to find simply by changing my mindset along with the changing of their lives. These personal peaceful steps that I take for my own well-being will help them become more empowered adults by watching me be empowered outside of my role as their mom 24/7. I want that for them. I want to be a good role model, still.

So now I get a piece of peace when the house is quiet and I can coach a client as if the entire house is my office. I get a piece of peace when my day transitions from work to home responsibilities like cooking dinner while I play my favorite music and dance around the kitchen. I get a piece of peace when everyone is home but doing their own thing to catch up on their life’s responsibilities and we come together at odd intervals  in passing in the hallway or at dinner time. I get a piece of peace having an adult conversation with these people who, just a few short years ago, were nowhere near adulthood. I can peacefully enjoy their growing up process from a new perspective.

I often hear how my clients wish they could know a peaceful existence 24/7 but truly, what fun would that be? We need the bad to remind us of the sweetness of good, we need the downs to make the ups so much brighter and we need the chaos to help us really understand peace.

Where do you find your piece of peace during your day or week or month?

Turns out there are so many things a person can do to create their own piece(s) of peace:

As best you can stop worrying. Worry zaps necessary energy from peaceful thinking and peaceful actions. Worry makes drama and negatives more important than smiling and solutions. When you find yourself worrying about anything, stop right in that moment and ask yourself, “How will my worry change the way this situation is going?” “When has my worrying ever created a positive outcome?” Then take a deep breath and let it go. Let go of the worry, trust that the universe is always spinning and changing and that what you think you know for sure at this most worrisome moment will not be like it is in another 15 minutes or 2 hours or one day.

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” Corrie ten Boom

Grab onto a piece of peace. What does your vision of peace look like, sound like, feel like, and taste like? Is it fear of the unknown that creates a feeling of having no peace? You can affect a more realistic outcome of peace if you first allow yourself to feel all of the emotions that come with living a life away from peace but then, when the storm of emotions calms down, come from a peaceful place within your heart and mind. Grab onto those resources within you that help you start to create a peaceful atmosphere. Get peaceful in just one area of your life right in the thick of things and you will be amazed at how regenerative and empowering it can be to let the fear come and then go.

“There is peace even in the storm” Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Give up control. As human beings we want to always have the answers, we want to always be the go-to person, and we want to call the shots. Well, I hate to break it to you but in most cases the only control we ever truly have is the control we summon over our perspective and attitude. By giving up control around worrisome situations we are acknowledging that we don’t know everything and this allows for curiosity to be born. How can this drama be looked at differently? What do you know for sure right now? What suggestions might be helpful, especially ones that you haven’t thought of on your own?

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” Viktor E. Frankl

Get going. Action is the most empowering of ways to combat the feeling of being out of control and being so far detached from peace. Take a walk to clear your head and to get those happy endorphins flowing. Meditate by doing deep breathing exercises or talking to God. Write in a journal to get the helpless feelings out or write a letter to the person or situation that is causing so much grief but don’t mail it. Clean the house or the garage or the car or the attic or the bathroom. This is my favorite “get going” exercise because tackling a room in the house that needs cleaning is an instant gratification boost; what was messy is not orderly and clean all in the same day plus it physically gets my body moving. Call a friend or clergy, a coach or your mom. Vent and release your worry to someone who can and wants to take the burden from you if only for a little while. My second favorite way to distance myself from worry and drama is to give to someone in need. I volunteer because I am always in the right place at the right time giving what I have to someone who will be most thankful for my existence. What is better than that to help create a sense of inner peace?

“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. ”William James

Be kind to yourself. For every awful, demeaning, self-loathing thought you have about your part in a worrisome situation, instantly think of its opposite. For example I thought I was a horrible mom for not equipping my boys to handle their life’s drama with more courage and a better sense of self. For every ugly thought I had about myself I would think of all the ways in which my boys still loved me, still relied on me, still listened to what I had to offer, and still get up each day to face the next thing. It took me a long time to realize that I am not responsible for the habits they each create. God created us to have free will and in that we make decisions that will have consequences, good and bad. I can only say and do the best I can. It is up to each person to act according to the information they receive and are exposed to.

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” Lao Tzu

Call to Action

What is one thing you can do right this minute to create a piece of peace for yourself?

Make a pact with yourself and decide:

If I feel myself start to worry then I will _____________________. Think of something that is calming and pleasant for you to experience. Having a game plan to immediately implement in times of high stress and worry helps your body be able to handle the chaotic moments with more resolve.

When do you notice yourself feeling stress, worry or not being at peace?

 

 

Always do your best (part 4)

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“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

I think this quote is a great place to start the last of my blog series based on author Don Miguel Ruiz’ book The Four Agreements. Here are the agreements:

  • Be impeccable with your word
  • Don’t take anything personally
  • Don’t make assumptions
  • Always do your best

The idea is that if you are always trying to do your best then you are creating habits that keep you practicing being impeccable with your words, not taking anything personally and not making assumptions.

In order for your day to take shape, to live and to breathe you have to first wake up and then get out of bed. Everything you do once out of bed is up to you alone. You can decide with your very first step that today is going to be a better day than yesterday or an even better day than yesterday. You can decide that whatever challenges you faced yesterday will be met with more courage today.

Whatever you decide to do with your life minutes today give each one of them purpose and meaning and significance by being the change you want to see. EVERYTHING starts with you.

“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

To look at my daughter you would never know that she struggles with having real, true, honest friendships in her life. Oh, she knows a lot of people and is always busy but true, trustworthy friendships, the kind that last a lifetime, are hard to come by. In my biased opinion she is life. She is always busy working at a job she likes that affords her the opportunity to meet new people and forge new acquaintances, she is attending classes at college that feed her imagination and desire to learn, she is going out with people during her personal time that she chooses to spend time with, and she volunteers her time to causes she feels connected to. Yet, through all of her activities and busyness she feels a sense of not belonging and at times a sense of loneliness.

I can’t imagine anyone having a hard time relating to this. There are times in our lives when we just feel like we are so disconnected from everyone and that we just can’t seem to find a place where we belong. When she starts to get down on herself for some unnamed flaw she thinks she has the only question I can ask her is, “are you doing your best today?”

What does your best look like?

Does your best look like smiling even when you don’t feel it? Does your best look like dropping all your to-do’s and helping a friend in need? Does your best look like getting take out for dinner so that you have more time to spend with the kids at night?

No matter what you are involved in during your day or week or month or life, always bring and do the best you can. No one, not even you, can ask more of you than your best and you will always walk away feeling good about yourself. Your legacy in every life moment is left behind in your wake when you give the best you can.

What if my best is not up to my standards because I’m not feeling like myself? That can happen at any time. Don Miguel Ruiz says,

“In your everyday moods your best can change from one moment to another, from one hour to the next, from one day to another. Your best will also change over time. Just do your best in any circumstance in your life. It doesn’t matter if you are sick or tired, if you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself harshly.”

How do you treat yourself, your work or your relationships?

This is an important question toward always doing your best because when you like yourself and treat yourself well you know the end result of what you want others to feel from you. Bringing your best self to your life moments means that you have the potential to bring out the best in someone else.

Here is Don Miguel,

“When you do your best you learn to accept yourself by learning from your mistakes and practicing toward increased awareness. Doing your best really doesn’t feel like work because you enjoy whatever you are doing. You do your best because you want to do it, not because you have to do it and not because you are trying to please anyone. You are taking action because you enjoy the action. It becomes about living fully.”

“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

What are your core values, your character strengths?

When you are in the flow of a project or experience and lose track of time what actions are you taking that align with your values?

For me it is writing. I lose track of time and space when I am writing and reading and researching. I enjoy the discovery process and I enjoy what I am able to share with anyone who chooses to read what I’ve written. My values are enlisted when I am writing in such ways as authenticity; I never write what I myself am not interested in knowing more about, compassion; I always write about topics that I have experienced and want to share with others, and gratitude; I always write with gratitude for the life lessons I have learned or lessons I am still learning.

In the end Don Miguel says,

“The first three agreements will only work if you do your best. Your habits are too strong and firmly rooted in your mind.

  • Don’t expect that you will always be able to be impeccable with your word.
  • Don’t expect that you will never take anything personally
  • Don’t expect that you will never make another assumption

But you can certainly, always, in all of these agreements, DO YOUR BEST.”

So the question is, how do we even get started on creating our best selves?

In the words of one of my favorite songs by the band Journey, “be good to yourself”. Only you can determine the many ways in which you can show love to yourself. For me, being good to myself shows up in cooking or baking or taking a time out to read in bed at night or writing.

In all things find a reason to say thank you. In the course of just one day whether the day overall was good or bad there is always at least one thing to be grateful for. I know my day was not a total waste when I can say a soulful thank you for something and connect with my own humility.

Ask for guidance. This guidance may come from a trusted friend or clergy, it may come from a beloved sibling or parent or it may simply come from the universe. The point is to ask. We don’t know all the answers so putting the questions out there may help us get clear on what to do next. Staying curious and open to new perspectives is one way to help create our best self.

Let go of expectations. Let go of your version of how something should turn out; let go of trying to control any outcome. See what happens when you do your best and the result is not what you expected. See what comes of a new experience or new perspective. What did you learn? How did you grow?

Mind your words. It matters very much the talking you do inside of your head and heart. Who do you love the most? Talk to yourself the way you talk to the one you love; hold yourself in the same love that you hold that special someone; believe in you the same way you wholeheartedly believe in the one you love.

Call to Action

Here is a different kind of call to action this week. I leave you with a prayer from Don Miguel Ruiz. Practice this prayer every day as often as you can until you believe in every single word:

“Thank you Creator of the universe, for the gift of life you have given me.

Thank you for giving me everything that I have ever truly needed.

Thank you for the opportunity to experience this beautiful body and this wonderful mind.

Thank you for living inside me with all your love, with your pure and boundless spirit, with your warm and radiant light.

Thank you for using my words, for using my eyes, for using my heart to share your love wherever I go.

I love you just the way you are, and because I am your creation, I love myself just the way I am.

Help me to keep the love and the peace in my heart and to make that love a new way of life, that I may live in love the rest of my life. Amen.”

 

http://www.amazon.com/Four-Agreements-Practical-Personal-Freedom/dp/1878424319/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425307355&sr=1-1&keywords=the+4+agreements+by+don+miguel+ruiz

Jumping to Conclusions: 7 Steps toward Jumping in the Right Direction (part 3)

 

 

whichwayoriginal

“Inner guidance is heard like soft music in the night by those who have learned to listen.”
Vernon Howard

What is one habit we all have but rarely think of it as a habit?

It is the subject of the third personal agreement spoken about in the book, The 4 Agreements by author Don Miguel Ruiz.

Answer: Making assumptions.

Assumptions, what a funny word. What does it mean to assume other than the fact that it truly does make an ass of you and me when we do it?

Think of a time when you needed to hear back from someone and it took a long time to receive that call or note or email. Don’t lie, you jumped to an assumption or conclusion that the person you needed to hear from was blowing you off or not making your request important or just too busy for you. Were you right? In most cases there really is a good reason for not hearing back from someone you typically trust to be diligent with correspondence but as a species we tend to self-protect and so we assume the worst without evidence. Once we start down the road of thinking the worst of people it becomes a habit we can’t easily break.

Now think about a time when you needed to solve a problem or get through a difficult situation. If you are like me then you ask yourself, “What is the worst that could happen here?” and try to prepare for that awful conclusion or work backwards toward a more pleasant outcome.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you are a negative person although to jump to that question first can make you feel negative. There is actually evidence now that shows that using this question when trying to solve a difficult problem is actually healthy and helpful. In their book, The Upside of Your Dark Side, authors Robert Biswas-Diener and Todd Kashdan, Ph.D. write:

“We believe—and new research supports—the idea that every emotion is useful. Even the ones we think of as negative, including the painful ones. We don’t suggest an extra helping of happiness or a dash of negativity; we suggest both. It is by appropriately flipping back and forth between these two states that you can achieve a balanced, stabilizing sense of wholeness. Simply put, people who are able to use the whole range of their natural psychological gifts—those folks who are comfortable with being both positive and negative, and can therefore draw from the full range of human emotions—are the healthiest and, often, the most successful.”

Even on the subject of happiness itself these authors have a lot to say when it comes to predicting or assuming what will make us happy or leave us feeling happy after an event or purchase:

“To put it succinctly, we humans are horrible at guessing how happy we will feel in the future, and yet we base important life decisions on these flawed predictions (assumptions). We purchase TVs, plan retirement, and say yes to dinner dates all because of an imperfect guess about how happy they will make us.”

In other words even if it can be proven that making assumptions could work in our favor it is fundamentally not to our advantage, yet we are practically raised to make it a part of who we are and how we function in the world.

The dictionary defines the word assume to mean:

  • To think something is true or probably true without knowing that it is true
  • To begin as a job or responsibility
  • To take or begin to have power or control in a job or situation. Someone assuming the role of a leader or care taker, etc.

It is this first definition that we all have as a habit. The question then becomes why do we assume anything without first knowing or understanding the facts? When do we stop fact finding and decide that what we know is enough to believe  we now know is truth?

The simple answer comes from the author himself of this third personal agreement that we all need to make within ourselves.

“Even if we hear something and we don’t understand we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.” Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

Courage. That really sticks in my gut. I never really paid too much attention to how much courage it takes to ask questions, to be vulnerable with courage in order to get clarity on something. When I think about it specifically now I can relate it to my children and their performance in school throughout the years. There seems to be an aspect of pride involved with asking questions and assuming to know something without facts or truth.

I asked my son, “What stops you from having the courage to ask questions when you don’t understand something?” His answer, “Sometimes it is not that I don’t want to ask a question, I just either might not want to know the answer or don’t want to hear what someone has to say or I might just want to figure it out for myself.” In any of these answers courage and pride seem to be at its heart.

Why is there such a stigma to asking questions?

In his book, A More Beautiful Question, author, journalist and innovation expert Warren Berger finds that “even though children start out asking hundreds of questions a day, questioning falls off a cliff as kids enter formal school. In an education and business culture devised to reward rote answers over challenging inquiry, questioning isn’t encouraged and is in fact sometimes barely tolerated.”

Mr. Berger talks at length about how teachers are discouraged from promoting questions because the curriculum each teacher has to teach does not allow for free questioning and time to explore the minds of the curious child. Teaching to the test is all there is time for. In an environment like that, Mr. Berger says that children learn very quickly that if a “right” question is not asked and a “right” answer not given then it is best to just sit and listen and not get too involved in the education.

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” Isaac Asimov

Author Warren Berger says,

“The Nobel laureate scientist Isidor Isaac Rabi came from a home where at least one parent encouraged the children to ask questions.” ”’ While other mothers asked their kids ‘did you learn anything today?’ my mother would say, ‘Izzy, did you ask a good question today?’”

Scientist Hal Gregersen thinks parents can help their kids be more inquisitive by posing what if questions that help invite children to think deeply about the world around them.” Encourage kids to solve problems in a hands-on way through household tasks and chores. Most students have to do some work to resuscitate their childlike curiosity. The best way to do that is to start asking questions again, lots of them.”

In his book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz writes:

“We have millions of questions that need answers because there are so many things that the reasoning mind cannot explain. It is not important if the answer is correct; just the answer itself makes us feel safe. This is why we make assumptions. These assumptions are made so fast and unconsciously most of the time because we have agreements within ourselves to communicate this way.”

So if questioning falls of a cliff at a time of life when it should be greatly and primarily encouraged as a natural human virtue and right, and if our society has accepted that we are raised to be rote, mechanical bodies that are supposed to just do as we are told, no questions asked then how can we ever break the cycle of a bad habit like assumption?

“Ask a question” says Don Miguel Ruiz. “Make sure your communication is clear. When you don’t understand something, ask a question, don’t assume an answer or a rejection of your question.”

In other words take action and create the habit of asking questions in every situation about everything.

“As far as you can, get into the habit of asking yourself in relation to any action taken by another: “What is his point of reference here?” But begin with yourself: examine yourself first.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

To break this down even further author, speaker Byron Katie asks us:

“Can you absolutely know that what you are believing is true?” For me the answer is no most of the time. Once I get to a no then pride steps aside and I have no choice but to keep questioning and seeking more truth.

Here are some other ideas to help break the habit of assuming:

Increase curiosity: Every situation that comes along in our lives has 2 sides to it. To increase inquisitiveness and curiosity ask the opposite question of the situation you are facing. We automatically go to what our habits have become. If you always think the worst of a situation then train your mind to start thinking the best of a situation and as crazy as it sounds, vice versa. Training your mind to see all sides increases curiosity and expands the brain waves of problem solving.

Stop the gossip: Most people gossip in the negative. They talk trash about other people in order to be the one “in the know” and get the spotlight. It is not a good spotlight to have shine on you if you are building a reputation of being someone that gossips. Talking about other people when the person is not around is just bad form. When a group is gathering for a meeting and there is that free time before everything gets underway don’t fall prey to the gossiping. Try to steer the conversation away from gossip by talking about something neutral like a new song or TV show or asking the opinion of the people gathered around you about a book you read or a trip you are hoping to take.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes: This is empathy. What would you want someone to do for you if they saw you were in trouble or sad or lost? Our moods can change as quick as a wink. Knowing that, we also know that we are not in the presence of one particular person 24/7 and that alone means that we don’t have all the facts. Don’t assume you know what the issue is. Be available to just listen if that person chooses to share with you or just offer your support whenever that person is able to talk more about the issue.

Get Pro-Active: Don’t continue to dwell on all the reasons why you think someone is in a bad mood or having a hard day. Offer to help by listening, brainstorming ways to solve the problem toward a more positive outcome, or being a trusted friend. If you are the one assuming something about your own situation then journaling about it might help. Getting all the feelings out on paper instead of out at a particular person will lessen the intensity of the initial feelings. Lesser hostility leads to greater resolution. Another idea is to distract yourself away from the assumption by listening to your favorite music, exercising, cooking or reading a favorite book.

Be clear: We very often assume that certain key people in our lives should just know what we mean or what we are saying without us having to go into too much detail. STOP. Most people have the attention span and listening capability of a 4th grader. Be clear, speak at a normal tone of voice and not too fast, be specific about your needs or wants or directions, remember that your thoughts and ideas are not the only thoughts and ideas that are swirling around at that moment, allow room for participation in problem solving and approach the situation the way you would want someone to approach it with you.

Be the tourist: When my son was living in Florida I used to encourage him to be the tourist. Look at your everyday as if you are new to the area or to the situation you are in. What would a tourist do? How would a tourist solve this problem? Tourists have a ton of positive juices flowing through them because they see things through new eyes. Their open-minded point of view allows for so many possibilities to open up.

Don’t jump to conclusions: Conclusions without support of truth is another way of assuming. If someone you work with or a friend has a sour look on his/her face, don’t jump to the conclusion that it is because of something you did or work related. Step back, be kind, use compassion and ask that person what is wrong. Even if you know for sure what the problem could be you don’t know for sure all the aspects of why something is wrong.

“You have to start with the truth. The truth is the only way that we can get anywhere. Because any decision-making that is based upon lies or ignorance can’t lead to a good conclusion.” Julian Assange

Call to Action

Where can you start breaking the habit of assuming?

In what ways can you make an internal agreement with yourself to always seek curiosity?

How can you encourage others around you to embrace and welcome curiosity?

Is it Just Business or is it Personal (Part 2)

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Is it Just Business or is it Personal?

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.” Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

When I was little my dad told me about a trip he had taken with his family. The details of the trip are really fuzzy but the point was very clear. He was traveling through an area where there were a lot of people all around doing all sorts of activities, “I suddenly wondered, if I was not here would these people be here doing what they are doing?”

Realization of self on a more grand scale is shocking to a kid. Where once a child thought that he was the only person that mattered he now realizes that he is not alone and so special. As children we are so used to the “knowing” that all of life revolves around us only. As we come to realize that life goes on even when we don’t see it we lose a bit of ourselves to the grandeur. It happens slowly and quietly and sadly can become a pit of depressing questions and thoughts that we just keep falling into. Questions like, “Do I really matter at all”, “How can I get noticed in such a big world”, “What makes me so special”.

The moment we have the revelation that the ME in us is somehow smaller our world view expands to limitlessness but in such ways at first perhaps as competition, fight for survival, overwhelm, or uncertainty. It can become so overwhelming at times that we find ways to pull back into ourselves and make each day all about us again. We become sensitive to criticism as well as compliments although the criticisms are decidedly more impactful and we judge ourselves so harshly. We lose a piece of self as we strive to learn how to gain more self each time we take something personally and allow the judgments and summaries of what other people think of us.

In his book The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz writes that we internalize and take into our hearts the negatives, the insults from other people because,

“We agree with whatever was said about our character; we have already made an agreement in our hearts to accept the negatives that people supposedly believe about us. As soon as you agree, the poison goes through you. This trapped feeling is what is called personal importance or taking things personally, the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about “me”.

“If people make fun of you, it probably means you’re doing something right.” –Amy Lee

People have a hard time understanding other people who are different from themselves; lives lived outside of what we each personally believe to be truth. When people don’t understand something they try to fight it by poisoning it with humility and shame and insult. If you are getting that much negative attention toward something you said or did then you hit a nerve with the insulter and that means you did something right, something that person wishes he/she did instead of you.  Once you show your outward agreement to the insult you give permission for anyone to do it again and again. By building internal immunity toward the negatives people will throw at you, about you, becomes a gift you not only give yourself but also to those that admire you and respect you.

How then do we build immunity? The answer to that question is very personal. For me, my internal immunity comes from knowing that God loves me. There are times when I have to repeat that to myself especially during really weak life moments but when I can start my every day believing and knowing his love of me then I have put on my armor and can move about my life with immunity toward the negatives. What are some ways that you choose to help build immunity toward preventing taking things personally?

Each of our daily successes and failures are so temperamental. We are subject to the whims of being the goat or the hero on any given day. Learning not to take things personally, whether in good or in bad perspectives is a way to build immunity against negative personal thoughts and to know that the goat or the hero outlook comes from how others are seeing us based on the agreements we made inside of ourselves. It really has nothing to do with us at all. The people that put themselves in a position to judge our actions and thoughts are just trying to build themselves up by putting us down. Why would any individual ever agree to that?

Don Miguel Ruiz says,

“Don’t take it personally. I may touch a nerve inside of you with what I say but that means that you have wounds inside of you that I have touched on with words that I have spoken. You see the world with different eyes than mine. Your personal truth has nothing to do with me.”

As a little boy my son would lie. In his mind if he didn’t tell the truth about what happened then he wouldn’t get in trouble. The “trouble” he feared was a lie he told himself and then believed to be true. If I allowed myself to take it personally that my son is learning to lie because I am a bad mother then I wouldn’t be able to see that he is in the middle of learning a life lesson for himself. If I allow myself to take it personally then I would equally believe that I am a bad mother to my other children as well, all the time, in all circumstances even if their life lessons are different. The downward spiral of despair within me would take its toll on everyone in my life. Thankfully I stepped back, way back from that kind of negative agreement of being a bad mother and realized that my son’s life lessons are his to learn and mine to guide, not take responsibility for. If I am to judge my mothering so harshly then I should equally judge any goodness the children display with harshness too.

“You are who you are when nobody’s watching.” Stephen Fry

Is there ever a time when you are alone that you are content and happy with who you are? If so, then why can’t you bring that person to every situation outside of home?

Here is Don Miguel Ruiz:

“As you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won’t need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you. If you keep this agreement, you can travel around the world with your heart completely open and no one can hurt you.”

So what are some steps we all can take to get in the mindset of not taking things so personally?

Assume the best in others: When you meet someone for the first time you are on your best behavior. There hasn’t been a reason or enough time to form judgments or attitudes about the person you are meeting or vice versa. Continue to assume the best in the people you meet for the first time as well as those you know for a while. When you raise others to a better level of existence through how you choose to see them then they will reflect that “better” inner person right back.

Stay in the moment: When you get that initial prickly sense in your gut that says “this sounds personal” stay in the moment and see it through before your attention changes from who you are with to only you and your feelings. Notice things going on around you. Are you the only person being targeted? How well do you know this person? Is this normal behavior from him/her to be so insulting? Have you had problems in the past with this person when he/she starts to feel insecure? Concentrate your attention on that person and try to see what he/she sees. See that person as you would like to be seen. Compassion and kindness are contagious and can only win the moment when we switch to empathy.

Mentally review your own agreement: Do you tend to always take things personally? Do you self-reject before anyone else has a chance to reject you? Do you always make other people’s actions and comments only about you?

Are you always the victim?

Remember that the person doing the insulting might have had a bad day and doesn’t want to draw attention to their own insecurities and sense of failure so that person will target anyone else in order to draw attention away from them. If you know yourself well enough and like what you know then your own mental agreement will not be able to accept any insult from other people.

Don’t let hurt feelings live on forever: What does the relationship mean to you? Pull that person aside and verify that the insult he/she made was truly about you. Let that person know that it wasn’t cool at all to pull you into that moment like that. Making other people accountable for their behavior will not only boost your respect level up in your eyes but also in the eyes of others. Teach people how to treat you by taking back the power you give away when you let the negative inner agreement come through.

It’s a good habit to form within your mind to ask yourself, “What else could be at play here?”

It’s not only the bad things that count: Compliments can be as dangerous to your self-worth as insults. Make an internal agreement with yourself right now that people who say nice things to you or about you have no effect on who are or how you behave. You know who you are, you know who you want the world to see and your self-worth is not solely based on the good word from others.

Be kind to yourself and others, always: It is soooo normal to get upset when we feel like we have been verbally attacked or that the universe is “out to get us today.” Forgive yourself immediately when you realize you are behaving as the victim. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Apologize to yourself for getting so self-absorbed and practice patience and tolerance of yourself.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Call to Action

How often do you find yourself having a good or bad day based on the approval or disapproval of other people?

What would happen throughout the course of your day if you started every single day saying something positive to yourself?

How well do you know you? The more you know for sure about you the less likely you will be to take things personally.

Where is one place in your life you can start to build your truth and your immunity?

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The Year of Self-Agreements Part 1

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“So I forced myself to step out of my comfort zone and go out and connect with people. I realized that no one knew me here. I could become whoever I wanted to be for these people, and that became my courage.” Charlotte Eriksson, Empty Roads & Broken Bottles; in search for The Great Perhaps

I started this New Year thinking about all the millions of resolutions people will make and break before the first month is over. The very word sits in my stomach like a heavy stone. For me resolving to do something is very much like choosing the lesser of two evils. I much prefer to use happier words like aspire, agreement, choice, decide, declaration, and tenacity.

So I set out this month to find books, writings, and/or motivational words to inspire me to make purposeful changes in my everyday life. As I have been made wonderfully aware, my inspirations are like seeds of growth I want to plant into my existence.

The word agreement sits very well with me right now so I started doing research into ideas that swirl around the word agreement. I found a book I had always wanted to read called The Four Agreements by author Don Miguel Ruiz and a slow January seemed the perfect time to tackle not only the book but to start to set my agreements for the year. An agreement, it turns out, is an arrangement agreed upon between 2 people but in this case the agreement I am seeking is an arrangement between me and my soul.

After reading about the first agreement I knew I had found a great starting point for my personal growth aspirations. So I decided to share with you what I’m learning by parsing through each agreement and how I hope to apply it to my own life’s perspective.

Just like the golden rules exist as guidelines to follow for a peaceful, productive, honest society of human beings to help each of us co-exist and honor the life we were given, the 4 agreements of humanity that are explained in this book, in my opinion, are crucial for each of us to be the leader of our own personal existence by adapting these agreements as further declarations of being.

These agreements are personal because how we interpret them is the essence of how these agreements work. All of these agreements have to start within each of our hearts first before they can blossom out toward the world we live in.

The first personal agreement begins with “Be Impeccable with your Word.”

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Author Don Miguel Ruiz writes,

“The human mind is like a fertile ground where seeds are continually being planted. The seeds are opinions, ideas, and concepts. You plant a seed, a thought, and it grows. The word is like a seed, and the human mind is so fertile. The only problem is that too often it is fertile for the seeds of fear. Every human mind is fertile, but only for those kinds of seeds it is prepared for.”

Just like a small child is not yet ready to understand the ways of an adult so too are adults not always ready to understand the ways of other adults.

Thinking about the concept of words being seeds and knowing how powerful words can be when spoken in just the right tone of voice I started to wonder what would happen if each of us woke up each morning and paid deliberate attention to how we say “good morning”. What would the tiny purposeful act of saying the words “good morning” do to set the tone for my day and for someone else’s day?

I thought about this particular question because on the second day of a job I am volunteering for I was early enough to watch and listen to people coming in to their job first thing in the morning. Everything is new to me; the people, the language used in this new environment, the sounds of machines and phones and construction so I am quite sensitive to ALL that goes on around me. Upon seeing someone first thing that morning a gentleman greeted a co-worker with a very happy, enthusiastic “good morning” and it stopped the incoming co-worker in her tracks. So much so that before she said her reciprocal “good morning” back she commented on how chipper and happy this greeting was toward her. She was compelled to ask if something wonderful had happened to this person who greeted her because a greeting with such enthusiasm was so unusual. How sad is that? For the rest of the day I didn’t hear negative tones or words from either of those 2 co-workers or anyone around them.

Sometimes my son wakes up in the morning and he has a hard time greeting the day with a smile or enthusiasm. His “good morning” greeting is so down and dumpy it just makes the rest of the family feel so deflated and less energetic. We often want to ask if something is wrong but we have learned that this is the way he greets each day and not to take it personally but I know it would make a great positive impact on us all if he would be a lot more happy and chipper in the morning.

What does it mean to be impeccable with your Word? According to the Toltec Spirit website, to be impeccable with your Word simply means to use your Word in the direction of love and truth.

“Your WORD has to do with the power you have to create through every kind of expression you make. You create through multiple types of expressions including emotions, actions, what you refrain from, and what you express your faith in. Being impeccable with your WORD means paying attention to all the ways in which you speak and interpret and help create images of what you say and of yourself.”

“I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of the Imagination.” John Keats

Impeccable means not capable of sinning; free from fault or blame; flawless. Other than God himself I don’t know anyone who is impeccable in all aspects of their life all the time. Sometimes we can be impeccable in the way we dress or in how we do a particular job but certainly not every day in every way. To begin to truly understand how impeccable with your Word can translate to happiness and be contagious it would seem to me that I would have to practice all the time and allow myself to re-interpret the ways in which I not only see the world but more importantly my own self.

Mr. Ruiz writes,

“Being impeccable with your Word is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself. If I love myself I will express that love in my interactions with you; if I love you, then you will love me. If I insult you, then you will insult me. If I have gratitude for you, you will have gratitude for me. Whenever we hear an opinion and believe what we hear, we make an internal agreement, and the agreement becomes part of our belief system. Most of the time the power of our Word is completely misused in such ways as blame, guilt, insults, gossip, and revenge. In reality the poison of these beliefs we spread is about how we feel about our own self.”

“The words with which a child’s heart is poisoned, whether through malice or through ignorance, remain branded in his memory, and sooner or later they burn his soul.”Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

How easy does it become to be impeccable with your Word when you realize you have been conditioned by the world you live in to self-protect and blend? When was the first time you can remember believing something bad about yourself? When did you make that first negative belief agreement about you?

Most people use negative words to hold others in fear. If I believe that I am no good as a person or in doing a particular job and it’s noticeable by how I talk about myself or carry myself then that person could use their word to keep me in fear because of the agreement I made within myself of being no good.

For example, this year I decided to live outside my comfort zone as often as possible. Volunteering at a hospital was one of the ways I decided to start. I have never ever had an interest or desire to work in a hospital setting. I am extremely grateful to all the people that help make us well when we are sick but I did not want to be any part of that world. By allowing myself to step so far out of the agreement I had always had with myself of not being capable of doing a job I THINK I will not like I am able to grow my heart and my soul. I realized that as a volunteer I am always in the right place at the right time. Living outside my comfort zone in this way stomps fear to the ground. Who knows what else I am capable of doing and being now that I have started to embrace courage rather than fear; now that I have decided to change the internal agreement I have made; now that I decided not to listen to words that keep me in fear of trying new things. The love and truth I find within myself for each new experience I learn from helps me become more impeccable with my Word.

But sometimes……

“Silence is a source of Great Strength.” Lao Tzu

In the example I gave about the “good morning” greeting, I realized that being the new kid meant that silence and listening were very strong tools I could use right away. Being silent can be part of how I create. Immediately it tells people that I mind my own business therefore I do not gossip, I listen carefully when instructions are told to me and the result of that listening is a job well done, I don’t interrupt or interfere with someone else’s conversation, and I can be counted on to be real.

How else does being impeccable with my Word help me and those around me?

Discard fear: F.E.A.R. is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. If I let fear always dictate my every thought and action then I am not able to be effective as a human being in any circumstance. What am I truly afraid of, for instance, in being the first person to say “good morning” to someone? A simple fear like that can set the tone for so many other fears to take root.

Heighten my empathy: Being impeccable with my Word means that I am purposefully being aware of how I speak along with the words I use. I am putting myself in someone else’s shoes. How would I want to be spoken to and what words will be most soothing and friendly in particular situations. This is by no means easy. It’s asking me to stop almost every time I want to converse with someone and take a deep breath before I answer a comment or question

Practice what I believe or want to believe: When I want to change a habit I know it is going to take conscious effort every day to go from one habit to the next. If I believe that being a beacon of love and truth is important toward my success as a human being then I must be diligent in my daily practice of love and truth. It is very much like practicing to learn an instrument, like say, the guitar. In order for me to get so good at playing the guitar it sounds like I was born to play, I first must make it a habit of practicing and then challenging my practice to keep getting better. This could take a lifetime but that’s okay with me because I have all the time in the world to master something I believe in.

Do my best every day: I know that I won’t always like what I have created on a particular day in my attempt at practicing being impeccable with my Word but I can’t let failure in that moment define all of me. Mistakes and pitfalls will happen but being impeccable means to get right back up and try again. There will be more successes than failures. Learning to forgive my mistakes and try again means I’ve turned the mistakes into a success.

I know that these ideas can be easily applied to many other areas of my life but I find it easier to be specific as I go.

The best part about being impeccable with my Word is that the more I practice and tend to the seeds of love and truth the deeper the roots of my new agreement with myself can grow. What I then believe about myself can go out to the hearts of others and the stronger I feel against the poison of fear of what negative words might come at me. I can continue to cultivate fertile ground for more and more impeccable words and better self-agreements.

Call to Action

What is one thing you can do today to start thinking the best of yourself?

When, in the course of your days, can you be impeccable with your Word?

How do you think it will feel in your heart to stop thinking badly of yourself and start thinking that you can DO anything you set your mind to?

 

The ABC’s of R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

 

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Here is a little riddle for you compliments of www.lifehack.org:

“You can only have it once you have given it.

One of the most misunderstood concepts out there, respect is asked for yet seldom given. Some even try to take it by force or buy it, but if you are unable to show others respect and treat them as equals you will never be able to truly earn their respect. People respect bravery, intelligence, skill, talent, compassion and physical and mental strength, and these things cannot be faked.”

Lately the question of respect has morphed into, how can someone honestly, truly respect you if you don’t respect yourself? I believe respect should at most start within each of us….

You would think that after raising 3 children I would be the veteran of momhood. You would think that after all I have endured in learning my children at every age and stage of their lives so far I would have nothing left to learn except how to co-exist. You would think that when they hit the magic government age of 18 that says, “Hey, welcome to adulthood, but not really”, that I would be able to transition with them from apron strings and purse strings to I’ll-take-care-of-it-mom strings and no more routine bedtime strings.

Yup. You would think all of these things because after all, I’ve been with them since the moment they were conceived. Alas, not even close. I’m learning, what I think is the biggest lesson of my whole life, other than not to be afraid of death, and that is the word and meaning of respect in all its Technicolor dreaminess.

Okay, so here is this posts vocabulary lesson. The dictionary defines the word respect as meaning

1-      an act of giving particular attention or consideration

2-      high or special regard or esteem

3-      the quality or state of being esteemed.

In the case of our first definition I think I did an admirable job of showing respect to my children and their needs such as food, attention, time, education outside of school and moral support whether asked for or not. Just to name a few.

In definition number 2 when the kids did something that went above and beyond their basic level of earned respect, and by that I mean getting homework done well and on time, helping with chores, not arguing when an extended family visit was in order, I made sure they understood why I was calling attention to my “extra” respect. I’m a huge fan of answering those “why” questions.

In definition number 3 I always tried to find reasons to celebrate them. I never enjoyed keeping to the “traditions only” rules of celebrations. For example I always enjoyed celebrating their ½ birthdays. I would serve them dinner on half a plate, I would buy a silly, non-essential gift and not wrap it or give them the first ½ of a gift and then the rest on their actual birthday, I would give them ½ a glass of a beverage, I would even supply half a cake without anything written on it and sing very badly a half version of the birthday song. They thought it was cool and funny but I really just wanted them to know how aware I was of them and their lives.

Now, a mom would think that after a lifetime of showing them how to be respectful, what respect looks like and sounds like and feels like, that they would automatically have it in them by 18 years old to have respect as part of their DNA.

Yes and no.

What I am learning very painfully is that I did so much respecting of them that I never stopped to fully show them how to respect themselves or me. On some basic level I did teach them self-respect like bathing, teeth brushing, care of clothing, and the importance of a thank you whether in note form or verbal but it wasn’t enough. I did teach them to stand up for themselves but it seems not very well.

We all have demons living inside of us that talk trash to us about how we are not good enough, not pretty enough, not worthy enough, not talented enough. Some of us are able to outgrow those little annoying negative voices and some of us are slaves to those voices.

So, here I am dealing with all that I hid from myself and unknowingly did not deal with when it came to my children about how to first and foremost respect myself from the inside out. The most powerful lesson is that even when your children grow up there will always be ways to parent them. The job changes and evolves but the investment never ends. Words, actions, emotions live on long after our bodies do. I’ve learned an important lesson when it comes to integrity of self and of others.

My youngest is going through a very lost, very confusing time in his life and his inner demons are being played out in glorious fashion. His very low self-respect is causing our whole family to want to hide away from all of his negativity but we can’t and more importantly we won’t, regardless of how we feel. His low self-respect shows up in ways such as guilt, blame, lying, secrets, volatile emotions and stress. His body is not responding well to all of his low self-respect and so it is becoming very dangerous for him to continue on this path and that is not healthy for him or for any of us who care and love him so much.

I am forced to see so much of my own insecurities and lack of self-respect showing up in him and I feel at times helpless to empower him and hypocritical to try. But here’s the thing, and it really matters right this moment, we are going through the same thing at the same time and I just might be able to help him and he help me. What wouldn’t a parent do to save their child?

“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.” –Mark Twain

What does self-respect look like?

If I were to draw a picture of self-respect it would look like flowers blossoming with hope and integrity in the early cool, spring air. It would look like my boys did when they were young and wanted to wear super hero costumes because that is how they saw themselves that day. It would look like girls in high school who wear real clothes when everyone else is wearing pajama pants and slippers to class. It would look like teenagers laughing out loud at something funny their parent said and they didn’t care who saw or heard them laughing.

What does self-respect feel like?

Self-respect feels like warmth. Self-respect feels like having that superhero living inside of me, All. The. Time. Self- respect feels like knowledge, wisdom, confidence and courage all wrapped into one amazing 6th sense. Self-respect feels like being small in stature on the outside but feeling 6’ tall on the inside and letting the inside out. Self-respect feels like being good enough, worthy enough and just enough.

You’ve heard me say it over and over, perspective is everything. What you concentrate on most is what your life will bring to you. If your perspective is negative about yourself then everything you see from your point of view will have undertones of negativity and hopelessness. If you change just one aspect of your point of view from negative to positive then you are creating a crack in the negative to let the happy, positive light in.

I poured all of me into being a mom and took little to no time out for self-development. In that vein I simultaneously showed my children that being an adult meant giving up on all your personal individual rights and being only for someone else. No wonder my son is having a hard time growing into his manhood/adulthood. It sounds like I’m putting an awful lot of responsibility on my shoulders for who they have become so far and not enough responsibility on theirs and maybe I am, however, I feel blessed in the fact that I can see these characteristics so clearly now and hopefully say something and do something and then back up what I say and do in my own life’s example so that he doesn’t continue to believe that he will have to lose himself completely.

So how can I build self-respect and pass on those building lessons to my children?

Understand that self-respect is a close, very close cousin to self-confidence and self-esteem. Each can stand alone if necessary but they all work better together.

Believe every day in my own authenticity. Always stay in touch with my truth and my inner child. The child that day dreams, plans, schemes and loves to show her individuality. My truth showing up in the confidence of the decisions and choices I make, even if my decisions and choices are not in line with someone else’s. Somewhere in our teens we get it our heads that we equally want to be seen for our individual selves while blending in to the social norms so we don’t look “foolish”. We can’t have it both ways. It will always be more fashionable to choose ourselves over being a clone of someone else.

“Don’t go the distance trying to fit in the crowd and be accepted by others. Accept and respect yourself first.” Elizabeth E. Castillo

I think the most important step to create respect for myself is to forgive myself. I will absolutely, without a doubt make mistakes and have things from my past that I am not proud of. Respect grows from understanding what went wrong, learning from those wrong steps and constantly improving who I am and who I want to be. Self-respect grows from acknowledging wrongs to others as well. As a child I had a hard time saying I’m sorry to anyone but being able to be so vulnerable and humble builds self-respect quicker than anything I have ever experienced. I’ve also learned that once I apologize to myself and/or to others, I need to let it go. Move forward and leave the pain and incident behind. If I keep bringing it with me I haven’t learned anything and I might as well wear a sign on me every day that says “unworthy.”

I have learned that the person I have to ask for forgiveness from the most is: myself. You must love yourself. You have to forgive yourself, every day, whenever you remember a shortcoming, a flaw, you have to tell yourself “That’s just fine”. You have to forgive yourself so much, until you don’t even see those things anymore. Because that’s what love is like.” C. JoyBell C

Know my character strengths, know myself. Character strengths are the building blocks to who I want to be and been seen as; what I believe about myself without a doubt. These strengths allow me to develop my own core standards of living and the talents I can use to actually make that life happen. These strengths allow me to handle criticism with a growth mindset instead of persecution mindset, they allow me to see beauty and excellence in all things, and they allow me to work on values that are not so strong yet because I have a growing understanding of all the possibilities that live inside of me.

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” Maya Angelou

Dress to impress……ME. Treat me as I would treat a stranger or anyone I love. If wearing nice clothes helps me feel good about me then I need to make sure I wear nice clothes. How many times did I tell my children, the boys mostly, that when you dress to learn you will learn because you feel good about your appearance. Feeling good makes you stand taller and talk more and interact more and take responsibility more. When you dress to be slouchy and comfortable you will be lazy in all things. Besides that little nugget it’s so fun to wear clothes that look nice. When you look nice you feel nice and then you act nice.

“If I waited for a proper occasion to get dressed up I’d never wear half of these clothes. Put on the clothes and you make things happen to match them. It doesn’t work the other way around.” Erin Kelly

Best foot forward. This goes beyond what I wear. This speaks to my reputation and integrity. Stay true to who I am and who I believe I am. I may falter from time to time, my ideas may not work out the way I planned but I will always try to pick myself up again each time I fall and that is what people will know for sure about me. If I lose respect for me how can anyone keep respect for me?

“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.” George Eliot, Adam Bede

Give what I want to get. If I want to have friends, I need to be a friend. If I want people to support me then I have to be supportive of others. If I want respect then I need to show respect, always.

“If you don’t give, you don’t get.” Krishna Sagar, Summit Your Everest: Your Coach for Obstacle & Failure Management

Let bad feelings come and then promise to let them go. Don’t let bad feelings about me linger too long. It takes no time at all to fall down and stay down.

“Self-pity, while it should be accorded due respect, is the greatest of all acids to the human soul.” Paul Hoffman, The Last Four Things

Don’t become dependent on the praise from other people. Sure it’s a great feeling to get those “atta girl” accolades but with all my heart try not to depend on the approval from others. Be confident enough within me to know for sure that I did a great job even if no one took notice.

“Hold dear and true friends close to your heart, it matters not where you find them, only that you treat them with love and respect always.” L.M. Fields

I hope this list of lessons will help you on your journey through self-respect. Need some help? Write to me and I’ll be your helper.

Call to Action

“If you had to spend every second, of every day, of every year of your life with someone, would you do whatever it took to love that person? Would you be a best friend, a teacher, coach and mentor? Would you do whatever it takes to treat that person with respect? Well guess what? That someone is you! Who deserves the best more than you do? Think about it and have an outstanding day…!”James A. Murphy, The Waves of Life Quotes and Daily Meditations