Self-Esteem’s Nemesis: “Deserve”

If I could give only one piece of insight to a person asking me about Self-Esteem and Self-Worth it would be this:  Swap the word “deserve” for “worth” in your vocabulary. It’s a simple distinction verbally, and yet within our amazing mind’s and bodies, the difference is like night and day.

The Danger of “Deserve” 

When we say we deserve something, no matter what “it” is, what we are really saying is that we’ve done something to earn said “it.”  Literally.  The dictionary defines deserve as: [verb] “do something or have or show qualities worthy of (reward or punishment)” Basically, when we use the word “deserve” we’re are teaching our bodies, and our minds, that our worth comes from the things we do.  The way we act.  The choices we make. The amount we give. It sets up a sort of quid pro quo within ourselves, that our value is based on giving and then receiving.  That our value exists only in relation to other external things and/or people.  That we have to give in order to have worth, and that our worth is measured by what we get back.  In other words, we can give until we are empty, homeless, exhausted, totally depleted and if we don’t get back something that fills us up, makes us feel valuable, or is equal to the amount we’ve given then our internal belief becomes that we haven’t worked hard enough, we haven’t earned our value, and therefore we have no worth. Scary, right?!

The Value in “Worth”

On the other hand, when we say we are “worth” something, we are saying to our minds and bodies that we, beautiful, flawed, unique, authentic us- have value, and we are worth said it. Check out the definition for worth: [adjective] 1. are equal to particular amount 2. important enough to justify something Do ya see the difference? When we are worth something, we are “important enough to justify” it.  We get to have said it because we. are. valuable.  We, us, who we are just because we are alive, have value.  We are important.  We matter. We are worth being treated with respect. We are worth having nice things happen to us. We are worth being paid attention to.

We are worth being loved.

We are worthy of love from ourselves.  From our families.  From life.  We, just as we are, not because of what we do, are worth love. So, start Today.  Start the process of learning to see your value by removing the word “deserve” from your vocabulary, and embracing your worth.  You, yes YOU, are important enough to justify this swap. You matter.  You are worth love.    

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.    

Worried you are too focused on love? You Are Not Alone AND There’s a Reason Why!

Jennuine Captures I am a bit of a brain nerd.  I can’t help it, I find the human brain fascinating! Usually when I share this passion with my clients or family and friends, the initial response is “uggghhhh, really?  I don’t want to feel like I am back in school, I just want to know why I feel this way.”  But once I give my cliff note’s version of what’s going on inside all of us, causing these feelings we want to avoid, hands down the response becomes, “ohhhhh, that‘s why this happens.  That makes so much sense!” “So you are saying that understanding how and why our brains influence some of our most self-conscious causing feelings, behaviors, fears can actually improve our self-confidence?”  Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying! 

Education is Power

Learning about, and understanding, what’s going on inside of us totally takes the stigma out of what we are experiencing because we begin to understand that what we are experiencing is Normal!

How Does this Apply to Over Focusing on Love?

So often clients report being concerned about their fixation on finding, or improving, their love life.  And almost everyone of them says “I know I shouldn’t focus so much on this, and I should be OK with myself no matter what’s going on in my love life, but I just can’t seem to let go.”  Most also report feeling bad about themselves for having these feelings, shame for not being OK without a relationship, and harsh harsh self-judgment for being “weak.” Sound familiar?

Here’s my two-fold, you are totally normal, brain nerd spin on this.

First, from the brain nerd point of view our brains use love as painkillers.  Really, it’s explored in this this great article.  And here’s my cliff note’s version of how…. We have an “old brain” that is designed to do nothing but keep us safe. It does the automatic things, like breathing, for us and it searches for, and tries to predict, danger. In hunter/gatherer times this meant searching for physical danger’s like wild animals; but since our brains are unable to distinguish between physical and emotional pain, and in current times the threat of a wild animal attack is rather low, our “old brain” now spend it’s time searching for possible emotional hurt. With me so far? The only way to get out of the constant searching for danger mode (ie, pain, disconnect, worrying about the future) is to engage our prefrontal cortex, or “new brain.” Our new brain is where feeling safe, being in the present moment, our core-self, and connection with other people are stored (ie, painkillers).  It’s a wonderful place! So, what’s our most direct line to getting to our “new brain” and into these wonderful feelings of safeness, grounded-ness, and connection?  Why, love of course! Love, like all other natural painkillers, is stored in our “new brain.”  Thinking of, focusing on, and dreaming of love allows us to connect with our “new brain” which gives us all the painkiller benefits of our “new brain.”  Love allows us to relax, let our guard down, and just be; something our “old brain” cannot let us do.

Now, from a self-esteem + brain nerd point of view….

In most self-esteem material you read loving yourself “no matter what” is the definition of self-esteem.  Hence, wanting something you don’t have, like a relationship, is not loving yourself.  Well, guess what?  We are designed, in both our old and new brains, to want to connect with other people! Craving a relationship and connection is what makes us human.  It means we are alive.  It means we are healthy (and normal); and it means your brain is just working towards a pain-free, grounded, safe, secure life. When we look at it from this angle it makes so much sense why we fixate on love in our lives, doesn’t it?  I mean, if offered any kind of natural, already produced by your body, no side effects way to deal with pain wouldn’t you take it?   That’s all you are doing when you dream about, focus on, search for love in your life. So the next time you find yourself daydreaming about love, and thinking about how much you’d like a relationship, skip beating yourself up or putting yourself down for this normal and natural chemical reaction that we all have.  Instead, learn to embrace this desire, celebrate it, and continue to work to better understand it.  As with anything in life, the more you understand it, can read it, and connect to it- the safer, more grounded, more secure you will feel. (Brain nerd in cliff notes version isn’t so bad, right?! {wink})

Relaxation Technique & Free MP3 Download

Here it is!  Finally the free MP3 download of my favorite relaxation technique! The video is just a quick instructional video that I use to go over the details of this technique, why it’s so great, and what “tapping” is.  Watch the video once to get the idea, and then simply use this MP3 download any time you’d like to experience this technique. Relaxation Technique MP3 PC users, Right Click to download link.                                                                                                  Mac users, Ctrl + click on link, then select Save Link As Enjoy!

Why IS Gratitude Important?

My blog post from yesterday got me thinking, and I realized that while gratitude is something that you probably often hear about in relation to creating happiness, you might not know why it’s important. So that’s what we are going to talk about today- why gratitude, or positive thinking, or acknowledging what you are grateful for is actually important. (Gotta add a little green for St. Patty’s day!) Gratitude thinking is not the “band-aid on a gun shot wound” sort of treatment that you may think it is. It’s not suggested by therapists, life coaches, and ancient wisdoms to distract you, or make you “touchy-feely,” or to down play the difficult things that may be going on in your life. Honestly, it’s not. Gratitude thinking has the ability to physically reorganize our brains so we can treat the cause of the problem not just the symptoms. So instead of taking Pepcid AC when your tummy gets upset, you avoid getting the upset tummy all together. Does that make sense? To start, we have to understand the human brain just a little bit more (promise I won’t go off the deep end with this, hang in there with me for a few sentences). Our brain is an organ like every other body part we have. This particular organ is like an elaborate map of dirt roads in our heads. There are endless twists and turns and ways of getting to our destination, and like driving on a dirt road, the paths we use most often become the easiest to travel on because they have nice deep tracks already created. If we take these routes we are able to follow along in the tracks, and have a nice smooth ride. Our thoughts work the exact same way. The thought patterns we use most often have the deepest tracks, and therefore are the easiest to use. So if we are constantly thinking “something is going to go wrong,” or “I hate this,” or “nothing good ever happens to me” that is the pathway with the deepest tracks and the route our brain sends all it’s thoughts through. Gratitude thinking changes this. By including gratitude thinking in our day, and forcing ourselves to see things from a new angle, we physically create a new pathway (or dirt road) in our brains. As the tracks in this more positive pathway become deeper and deeper it becomes easier and easier for our brains to send information through these tracks. The more information that goes through these positive tracks, the easier it is for us to see things more positively, and to feel more positive and hopeful. Gratitude thinking has the same snowball reaction that negative thinking does, and as your positive tracks deepen it becomes easy to see the good side of not-so-good things.  Like in this blog. Another way to look at it is that gratitude thinking is actually exercise for our brains. It helps new muscles develop and strengthen, and literally changes the physical look and function of our brains just like bench pressing changes our physical bodies. So next time someone tells you to “think positively” don’t write him or her off so quickly. Maybe they are on to something……