Self-Esteem: Seeing Our Barricades as Beautiful

-mcb “Most of us spend our lives protecting ourselves from losses that have already happened.” ~Geneen Roth I love this quote!  The truth of it just cuts me to my core.  We all do this.  Every single one of us. And yet, this pattern, this defense mechanism, leaves none of us feeling safe, fulfilled, or loved. The moments, minutes, years, and decades we spend trying to protect ourselves from hurts we’ve experienced in our pasts mean we are not able to focus on, connect with, and let in all the good, all the love, that surrounds us in the now.  It keeps us reliving, over and over again, the hurts of our past. At points in our lives, building walls around our hearts in hopes of shielding ourselves from heartache may feel like our only option, and truth be told, at points, it is. How we look at, and understand, this defense mechanism of barricade building determines if it’s helpful or hurtful to us in the long run.

Beautiful Barricades

Now I know that your first response to this is most likely, “This building walls thing is something I am doing wrong.  If I had better Self-Esteem I wouldn’t need to build walls around myself.”  Right?  Wrong!  Constructing barricades to protect ourselves is a loving response that our body does instinctively. The act of creating barricades is Self-Esteem. See there’s this whole part of our brain that’s only job, only purpose for existing, is to keep us safe.   It’s like the biggest, most elaborate, fastest processing filing system ever invented.  I like to picture it as a little guy (or girl) living in my brain literally doing nothing but taking in information and putting it into “Safe” or “Unsafe” categories. To keep things running smoothly, and keep up with the necessary pace, the little dude created a system so that like things are filed together or associated.   With me so far? So, when new information, especially emotional, visceral, and physical information enter our brain’s “inbox” our little dude checks to see if it feels like something we’ve experienced before, or reminds us on an emotional level of something that’s happened to us in the past. If so, he stamps the new the information with “safe” or “unsafe” based on the past, not necessarily based on what is currently happening.  This system of associating like experiences is the only process this little dude knows.  With the amount of information rushing his inbox, this is his way of not letting things slip through the cracks. It’s his way of saying, “Hey, watch out!  Did you see that potential iceberg ahead?” It’s his way of protecting us. It’s the single most loving thing that we do for ourselves. Period.

OK, so now what?

If you are anything like me, or everyone I’ve ever had this conversation with, your response to this new information is something like, “OK, so now what do I do? How do I make it stop?” The intriguing part, (why I absolutely love about my job, BTW)… asking these very questions is your little dude working hard to figure out if this information should be marked “safe” or “unsafe.” It’s like he received something unfamiliar in his inbox, and he’s got 1 second to stamp it and file it away.  He’s activated.  He wants desperately to know if he needs to warn you.  He doesn’t want to let you down, or leave you unprotected.  So it’s his nerves, his hurry up and figure this out that we end up experiencing and leads us to jump to the “now what” questions. This is how amazingly hard our little dude works!  Everything, absolutely everything that happens to us, goes through his inbox.  And if we don’t realize it, if don’t pay attention to him, then he has no choice but to associate more and more things into the “Unsafe” category- because he loves us.

Learn to Embrace Your “Little Dude”

The first and most important step in changing this lighting fast process is simply embracing our little dude. Learning about, understanding, and acknowledging our “little dude” is how we learn to love the parts of us that might have been a source of frustration at times.  It’s how we learn to move beyond the hurts of our past. It’s also how we reconnect with our Self-Worth. Acknowledging that there is, in fact, this little dude working away to keep us safe, is the only way that we can start to work with him, begin to take things off his plate, and start a new association file. When we work with him we are able to slow the process down, and review each thing entering our/his “inbox” with care and uniqueness.  This way, when something comes in that reminds us of a hurt from our past, something that already happened, we can review what is currently happening, and our current level of safety, versus associating it with the wounds of our past.  It may feel the same, or remind us of a past loss, but when we slow down and look at the current information separately we may find that we are completely safe now.  That we are blocking something good from coming in, because we are protecting ourselves from the past. Now, there may have to be conversations with our little dude as we undertake this new process.  We may have to reassure him, sometimes over and over again, that although this reminds us of the past, it is not the past, so it’s OK to label the new event as “safe.” Again, because he loves us, and wants to protect us, he’s all about associating more and more with our “unsafe” file.  We, our conscious self, our core self, are the only one’s with the power of veto.  We alone are the only one who can work with him to reorganize the process of protection.

Accept Not Judge

This can’t be done though judgement.  Judgement is only going to make him feel under attack, and pull up that huge “unsafe” file he’s been working on. The only way to begin to work with him is to acknowledge him.  Love him.  See his work as a loving response.  A protective response.  A beautiful barricade. Then, and only then, can we start the process of organization. Working with him, loving him, appreciating him, is how we begin to let the now happen. It’s how we stop protecting ourselves from what has already happened, which leaves us isolated from the good that happening now, and how we begin to let light and love shine in; and, my friends, this is how we reconnect with our core self.    

Self-Esteem Lessons via Writer’s Block

Arnett Gill

I have been struggling with a HORRIBLE case of writer’s block. 

Shocking, I know, as I this is my first blog post in 2012. {She says with total sarcasm}  Now I know, and expect, writer’s block to rear it’s ugly head form time to time… it’s part of the gig.  What makes this particular bout of blockage so bizarre is that I’ve been so excited to get back to my poor neglected blog. I’ve literally been stockpiling inspiration for months! I have computer files, bookmarks, notebooks packed full of ideas, topics, and stories I want to write about.  Some are awesome blogs I’ve discovered, some are good books I’ve read, some are songs that stirred my soul, and then of course there is Pinterest; oh dear lord, Pinterest, and the millions of ideas that single website sparks.  And yet, when I sit down to write a post…. nothing.  Literally, nothing comes to mind, or seems to makes sense when I write it, or feels authentic to me.

It feels like I have the research, the topics, the inspiration, and yet, no voice.

At first I thought I just hadn’t found the “right” inspiration, so I spent more and more hours collecting more and more motivation.  Then, I thought I must not have created the “right” plan for sharing my info, so I invested my evenings into mapping out, or create a plan of how to share all the thoughts rattling around in my head.  When that didn’t work, I decided to take a break; in hopes that the stress I was putting on myself was keeping the words from flowing. Finally, I decided to take the stance I’d have if I were one of my clients, and stop judging myself for having writer block, and instead, just get curious about it.

I started asking myself all sorts of curiosity-based questions.  For example…

“Why do I want to blog?” “What do I enjoy about blogging?” “Am I blogging for me, or for other people?” “Why did I start this blog? As I reacquainted myself with my interests, hopes, desires, and goals for my blog it became easier to be curious about the intense writers block I have been experiencing.  Instead of looking for the “right” thing to fix the stagnation I was feeling, or the “right” way to get unstuck, I became simply curious about the feeling of panic that kept me from being able to write.  My questions transformed into, “Hmmmm, so I know I want to blog, and yet when I try to write a post panic sets in.  That’s interesting, why would panic be showing up for something I want to do?” Then it hit me like a ton of bricks, the message I must share 10 plus times a day with my clients: panic is showing up because writing a blog post is something I care about.

This is what it means to care about something!

It’s impossible to care about something and not fear loosing it. Fear, panic, anxiety, worry are all horribly uncomfortable, AND they are all signs that we actually care about something, or someone.  Because these feels are so uncomfortable to experience, it’s easy for us to approach them with dread, judgment and contempt and totally loose sight of why they showed up in the first place.  They do have a message for us but we can’t hear the message when we are only focusing on the pangs they are creating.

Change Your Focus, Change Your Experience

One of my favorite quotes or sentiments is, “energy follows focus.”  Meaning, whatever we focus on we get more of.  When fear, panic, and/or anxiety show their ugly mugs and we pay attention to them, worry about them, try to avoid them, or try to get rid of them, THEY are are our focus, therefore THEY are what we get more of. More dread. More fear. More Panic. More self-judgement. More anxiety. More self-loathing. More and more of these feelings, that I call bullies, and less and less of….us. I realized that my writer’s block has been intensified because my focus has been on making these distressing feelings go away, not on what I want to say.  I lost sight of the relationship I have with my blog, and myself, and gave all my focus to these annoying bullies, when I should have just asked them, “Hey, what’s your deal?!” So, I finally did it.  I finally asked, “What’s your deal?” and wouldn’t you know my first post of 2012 was born out of this simple question.  Moving my focus from the bullies that had plagued me since December to myself, and what I want to say, is all it took to get the gears turning again!

And I gotta say, it marvelous to be back!!!!