Category: psychology



“I love you but I don’t trust you”. Does that sound familiar to you at all? If so, you’ve come to the right place to find some answers to resolving the issue of trust in your relationship. Can a relationship survive without trust? Do you want it to? Do you feel conflicted about whether you should stay or should you go?

I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point in our lives… whether it is as severe as a gambling problem that has depleted your financial stability, or as nasty as an affair can cripple a marriage, a severe addiction that your loved one is involved in that is affecting you as a by-product, abuse, or a betrayal by a friend… there are many ways in which trust is broken, and different levels of severity to be sure… but the types of broken trust I hope to address today are the ones that cause you to ask difficult questions about whether the relationship is salvageable, or better yet, hope for total restoration!

I read a book by the title of my opening statement: “I love you, but I don’t trust you”, written by Mira Kirshenbaum, who has some great advice and much wisdom on the subject. I would highly recommend this book as it is a great read for anyone wrestling with complicated trust issues. Today, I hope to briefly review some of her recommendations that I believe are full of wisdom!

From the back cover of the book, it grips the reader with compelling questions such as:

Is my relationship worth saving?
Will the trust ever come back?
How can things ever be good between us again?

As a quick overview, some of the most important messages I pulled out of her book where most often questions that left you thinking… but help to pull you out of the vicious trust cycle of “should I stay or should I go.”

Asking the following questions should help you not only sort out the answer to that question, but help to answer the question of “Can trust be restored once it is broken?”, once you’ve made up your mind to stay.

Try asking yourselves these questions:

1. Would you want this relationship if trust could be restored?
“Guideline #1: If you didn’t think this was a good relationship before the betrayal… then why would you want to stay in it now? But if the relationship was a good one, why wouldn’t you want to try to salvage it?

2. Does the fact that this betrayal happened ruin everything for you?
“Guideline #2: If the betrayal has changed who the other person is for you so thoroughly that you can’t imagine wanting to be with him – not even after your anger has died down, not even if you knew for sure he’d never betray you again – then trust isn’t the issue and you’ll be better off ending the relationship.”

3. Can I imagine the possibility of forgiveness?
“Guideline #3: If you can see your lack of forgiveness as a self-destructive act, if you can see forgiving as a life-affirming act, and if you can sense the realistic possibility that one day you might be able to forgive, it makes sense to work at healing this relationship. Otherwise, not.”

4. Does the person you mistrust care about how you feel?
“Guideline #4: If the other person doesn’t care about how you feel in the sense that he consistently hasn’t gone out of his way to do things to show his caring, then he will not be able to work with you during the trust-restoring process, and so it’s not likely to happen. Why bother trying?”

I need to insert something I have personally observed in this stage of restoring trust: It is far easier to fixate on the problem (broken trust) than to actually notice and take into account the other person’s caring actions. Be careful in this stage to pay attention to the internal messages you are taking in. Is everything coming through the broken trust filter, or are you able to cognitively reason instead of looking through an all-or-nothing point of view? Can you intentionally give credit to the other person when they ‘go out of their way to show they care?’ If they are unwilling to rebuild trust… you will know it.

5. Can the other person work on your relationship with you?
“Guideline #5: A good way to tell if the other person is willing to work on the relationship is this. What happens if you attack less and listen more? If that makes the other person more willing to work on things with you, then you’re in good shape. If it doesn’t make a difference, or if you can’t bring yourself to attack less and listen more, then you may not be able to go through the process of rebuilding trust.”

Broken trust CAN heal. We were hardwired to trust. It’s in our DNA. “We want to trust. We need to trust. We’re designed by nature to be trusting creatures.” As Mira says in her book.

The reality is, as I mentioned in my previous blog on trust, when we stop trusting, we lock our hearts up in a cave, impenetrable. We become hardened, and isolated, and we lack ability to sustain caring and attached relationships because something inside of us has been altered by broken trust. Our sense of safety has been dismantled… our belief that there is good in the world turns into suspicion of every person we meet…

“Our thinking goes something like this: If HE could hurt me the way he did, than ANYTHING could go wrong, EVERYTHING has the potential to blow up in my face. I can’t even trust myself.”

I know. I’ve been there too. It’s like you no longer csn trust yourself to make good judgments. But again, if we turn it into an all-or nothing belief, we will completely discredit ourselves because we did something perfectly normal, perfectly human: we chose to trust someone with our heart and they disappointed our hope.

In closing, I will share this great quote from another favorite author of mine, that really helped me to understand why just because you trust, it doesn’t necessarily equal that someone else will be trustworthy in response:

“If you are a responsible and loving person, you might assume other people are like you – responsible and loving… You do the right thing by taking responsibility for yourself, for your mistakes, for your work, and care about other people and how your actions affect those people. You have concern about how what you do affects others. Doesn’t it make sense that everyone else would be like you and really care?”

Unfortunately, if you were to read further, you would realize that this simply isn’t the case. But just because it is not the case, does not mean that we automatically suspect everyone as a person who is self centered and out to get you.

Eventually, we must come to a point where we reach out and risk again, despite how unsafe it feels. Check out my blog on “Safe People” for tips on learning what qualities need to be in place for you to believe it is worth taking the leap of faith and trusting again!

And don’t be too hard on yourself. It is a process, and as they say, time heals all wounds…

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broken trust

Nothing seems more difficult to recover from then when someone whom you have trusted suddenly, and without warning, does something you did not expect that is life altering or affects the safety of your relationship with that person. The shock of the betrayal of trust from someone whom you expect to be trustworthy, whether it be your parents, a friend, a lover, an abusive encounter, whatever the case may be, when trust is broken, something deep inside of us is altered. And at the time, it feels like permanent damage to our souls.
 
We are internally wired to trust, to believe, to hope for goodness from other human beings with whom we are in relationship with. There is something almost naïve in all of us that assumes that other people will treat us with common courtesy and goodness, loyalty and essentially be trustworthy people in our lives. We were hard wired to trust. Now you may be questioning the truth of these statements as with almost complete certainty, you have at least one, if not two or more stories coming into your mind right now that has proved otherwise that people are genuinely trustworthy. If this is the case, then you have learned the hard lesson through a betrayal that has happened in your life that caused you to challenge this inherent sense of need to trust. The reason for this, is simply this: broken trust has altered you.
 
Before we experience a trauma of any kind, we expect things to be generally good. After a trauma, our sense of personal safety is now the major focus of our life.
 
A simple personal example I will share of something I experienced as a natural phenomenon,  occurred a few months after the major quake in Haiti a few years back. My husband and I were vacationing in the Dominican Republic, and while we were there, we experienced an aftershock earthquake where the ground was literally moving beneath our feet. Now for those of you who live in areas of the world where earthquakes happen more on a regular basis, you would have adapted to the experience and even the expectation of it. But for those of us who do not live in earthquake zones, it can be a little upsetting and shakes your confidence in the earth’s structural integrity. You grow up expecting the earth beneath you to be solid and stable and give little thought to earthquakes in general. So after experiencing an earthquake… suddenly, what once seemed so safe and predictable, has now been called into question. Going through a major experience of an earthquake is enough to alter your expectations. You start looking for it, fearing it, wondering when the next one will happen…. are you safe? This is what I am referring to when I say that we become ‘altered’ by experiences where something we once trusted in completely, has changed, thereby changing our expectations. We begin to believe everyone around us is untrustworthy, and our constant focus becomes protecting ourselves and asking the ever present question: Am I safe? Is this safe? What is safe? We begin to project our expectations of a lack of feeling safe onto everyone in our lives. We expect once trust has been broken that everyone else will be exactly the same as the one who broke our trust. Our confidence in safety has been shaken. Our focus now revolves around the issue of safety. However true or untrue this view of reality is, it becomes the focus of our life post-trauma. We become pre-occupied with the concept of safety, something we barely gave our attention to before we experienced a trust injury. This altered state becomes our new reality, becoming suspicious of everyone and everything, incapable of attaching and making new deep connections with others, because OBVIOUSLY, we are no longer safe with anyone. EVERYONE is no longer trustworthy because of one experience that caused damage to our souls and even self esteem. We begin to doubt  and question whether we are even able to judge or discern who is trustworthy and a seed of self doubt is formed in our psyche. This is just a portion of the damage that broken trust does in our lives.
 
So now that we know that the hardwiring in our brain has been altered as a result of broken trust, the bigger question remains: Can I ever trust again? And what happens if I can’t? broken heart stitched up>
 
In the words of C.S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia, and colleague and good friends with the author of the well known movie trilogy series “The Lord of The Rings,” has this to say on the subject of life without trust:
 
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable..”
 
In other words, our hearts become hardened, our lives locked up in isolation, intimacy always held at bay. The problem with living in this state is that we lose the ability to feel anything warm at all. We become distant, removed, disconnected. Safe from harm, yes, maybe… but at great personal cost to our souls.
 If you are currently in this state of isolation, depending how long you’ve been there will exhibit different symptoms. If you have been disconnected for a long time, you may no longer even feel any desire to attach and bond to other people, but you likely feel disconnected and alone. You may feel that you don’t even care, but if you were to be really honest, you feel trapped. Part of you wants to no longer be so alone and disconnected, the other part afraid of being hurt again.
 
I would bet that most of you who are reading this article from a search engine are searching for answers because you are in a different state than the completely walled off person mentioned above. You are likely feeling like you hate how disconnected you feel and want to connect or trust again, but the fear is overwhelming…. the desire to risk and trust again wavering back and forth between a yes to trusting again and a “No! it’s not safe” happening in your heart. You are likely looking for information to know how to take baby steps toward trusting again. What you want to know is: Is it possible to trust again after there has been a major trust violation in your life. You may even be thinking, “how can I trust your blog…. experiencing a minor earthquake is nothing like the major betrayal of someone close to you in your life… what do you know about it?” Actually, that is precisely why I’m writing this blog. I’m exactly where you are. I have endured major betrayals on more than one occasion in my life, and lived to tell about it. I wish I didn’t have so much experience in this area. The purpose of this blog for me is to offer to you, the same information I was looking for, in order to heal, to repair, and stop living in the fear of the unknown, of being rejected, abandoned, betrayed, broken hearted all over again.
 
My goal is to share some useful information to pass onto you about whether it is possible to ever trust again. And the answer is a resounding YES!
 
How to heal after a major betrayal
 
If you’ve been betrayed in a major way by someone you have trusted that has seriously called into question whether you can ever trust them again, I’m sure you are asking the following questions whether you are consciously aware of it or not.
  1. How will I ever cope with this?
  2. Does the other person really care about me?
  3. Can the other person really see me and understand how his/her betrayal hurt me?
  4. Can our relationship survive?
  5. Can we make things safer and better between us?
  6. Can I FORGIVE him or her?
 
The answers to these questions are the beginning process to knowing whether trust can be restored with the person who broke trust with you.
 
Think about these questions for the next few days, and then tune in to my next blog which will be a part 2 to this blog, and also doubling as a book review for a book I read that really helped me. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a more intensive look at the concept of broken trust and how to heal from it. The book is called “I love you but I don’t trust you” by Mira Kirshenbaum. I would also recommend checking out my trauma program on my life coaching website at http://www.freedomlifelove.com which is a six month program to walk you through the stages that occur when a major betrayal or breach of trust has occurred and has broken down a relationship that was important to you. It helps you anticipate what to expect, how to cope, with or without the person who was involved in the trauma you currently are facing.
self esteem hierarchy of needs
 
For today, I merely want to pass on some hope: YES, IT CAN HEAL. YES! YOU CAN TRUST AGAIN… Perhaps you can even learn to trust again the person who caused the trust injury. That will all depend of course, on how much responsibility they are willing to take for their actions and whether they are willing to do what it takes to make amends by becoming a safer person in your life. If they are willing to walk through the long process of becoming more trustworthy and are willing to earn your trust again, there is hope for reconciliation and restoration. Without these ingredients, there is little hope for trust to be restored in that relationship. I encourage you to take a look at an article I wrote last year on finding safe people and the characteristics they possess. Even an untrustworthy person now, over time, can make changes and become a safer, more trustworthy person.
 
 

baby trusting mommyWhat is trust? Let’s face it, we all are born not knowing how to trust. We learn trust over time from our early caregivers, through mom’s nurturing, gentle loving bond of attachment with us. It is from this state of bondedness that we begin to build trust muscles and the ability to ascertain what is safe and what is not. We learn through trial and error about experiences that are high risk or unsafe. In fact, we never even question or concern ourselves too much with the concept of safety until we have experienced something unsafe. Or for that matter, question what is trustworthy until we have experienced a breach of trust. it’s like we have an automatic cue within us that formats our whole life to confidently expect to trust, and that people are genuinely safe, trustworthy and good… until that fateful day when your beautiful sense of naivety and innocence come crashing around your feet as if your whole world, and your belief system crashed in front of you as you experienced a harsh dose of reality: Not everyone or everything is trustworthy. And yet, we are created with this innate need to trust. it comes naturally to want to trust.

You know it’s true, especially when something has malfunctioned for you in the area of trust. You become aware that something is ‘off’ or not quite right when you experience symptoms such as these:

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • More conscious of feeling unsafe than the ability to trust
  • Cannot trust easily
  • Panic attacks and anxiety
  • More withdrawn than usual
  • Isolated from caring and nurturing relationships
  • Desire to be alone and not have friends or other trustworthy relationships
  • Depression
  • Distraction – doing everything you can not to feel the aloneness you are experiencing in your soul.
  • Hardness of heart. You no longer feel the need for caring, supportive attachments in your life. You feel it is better just to rely on yourself and not let anyone get too close.
  • Self-sufficiency.
  • Irritability with people. Quick to want to run away from or ex-communicate someone from your life when things don’t go the way you want them too.
  • A general sense that something isn’t functioning right within you, which you attribute to why you can’t trust.
  • Avoidance of the issue… close cousins with distraction!
  • The inability to trust or want to. Tied very strongly to a deeply rooted sense of fear of opening up, being known or being vulnerable.

All these and more can be symptoms that you may have a trust issue.broken trust

You may still be stuck at my first paragraph, asking the question, “well how can I trust if I never got that seed of trust planted in my by my early caegivers. I was adopted and rejected by my real parents, or my dad was never there… or my mom was too drunk all the time to nurture me. In fact, I had to take care of her…”

These are all valid points to be sure. For some, it happens later in life… you had the caring parents, but your best friend betrayed you or your spouse is irresponsible with the budget and has racked up a lot of debt with a gambling or shopping addiction, or your wife had an affair…

how can you trust again after these kinds of major betrayals? Stay tuned for my next blog next Friday, as I tackle broken trust more in depth. For today, we will start out with an introduction on what trust is, and how to develop the courage to trust. For further help in the meantime on how to identify what characteristics safe and trustworthy people have, go back and check out my article from several months back on safe people, entitled “Identifying safe people.” or you can also check out my blog on “learning how to attach and bond”. Both deal with how you can repair attachment injuries from early childhood and throughout life that prevent us from entering trusting relationships, as well as giving you some quick identifying tools on how to find safe people and the qualities to look for, when you are ready to take the careful risk of learning to put yourself out there again attempting to build safe and trustworthy relationships.

Trust, in a basic definition, is a skill that can be learned and it always involves choice, and risk. Trust is fragile and can be broken easily through someone not being completely honest, rejection, betrayals, intended to harm, as well as unintentionally.

Trusting requires wisdom and information on how to identify not only what is safe, but the awareness that no one is perfect, and will fail us in small, medium or big ways from time to time throughout the course of our lives. We really need to be aware of not only how much grace others require from us when they fail us, but we also need to see that we are imperfect beings as well, capable of hurting and disappointing others as well. What we need wisdom for is to know the difference between intentional, or major breaches of trust, vs. minor, or unintentional injuries we have incurred.fear vs. courage

Trusting takes great courage and risk, especially if you are still reeling from broken trust, and are still very much in the stage of considering how safe you really are. It takes courage to trust because when you take your guard down, expecting to be met by a compassionate, empathetic understanding of what you have chosen to share that is vulnerable for you, you face the risk of being at least, misunderstood, or at the most, rejected or insulted or yelled at… or even abusive speech or actions.

If your caregivers were able to give you a firm internal sense of safety, dealing with trust issues may not be as devastating as to those who have experienced the loss of love, betrayal or other forms of broken trust. Any traumatic event in your life makes it that much harder to have a sense of trust in others or even yourself. Many people who have experienced broken trust, tend to stop trusting themselves, believing that they are not credible sources of reliability when it comes to identifying who and what is safe. They perceive their ‘radar’ for detecting safety and trust is broken or malfunctioning. This is not necessarily a true fact. It is however, indicative that something has happened that was traumatic enough to disrupt your internal equilibrium, and is evidence that you may need further work on learning to trust yourself again, before you make attempts to trust others. As I mentioned before, information and wisdom are great tools to help you sort out the lies you are now believing about yourself, abilities or discernment as a result of trauma.

What I would suggest is taking some first steps to rebuilding your trust muscle.

First I would recommend to get honest with yourself about the feelings you have, where you feel they originated from, whether or not it is fair of you to place the same expectations of being betrayed onto other people who have not yet betrayed you, as well as considering the facts of the situation… Was it in fact a deliberate betrayal? Perhaps it was merely a momentary carelessness of someone while they are distracted, or self absorbed themselves, which is not a usual characteristic of this person. Was it unintentional? Asking these sorts of questions can help give you a greater sense of clarity of how major the affront was to you. Also, if you are brave enough, you may want to ask the person directly, alone, or bringing someone with you whom you feel safe with, so that you do not receive and dwell on perceived information rather than truth.

It may also help if you can muster up some faith in a positive outcome in the situation you are currently facing. Focusing on your future ability to enter into trusting relationships again, can also take away from the fear of dwelling on past fears of broken trust.

Prepare yourself to face your fears of rejection… and always weigh out what is more important to you in this moment… your need to feel safe, or your need to connect and attach, and determine the risk factors involved with each person you are considering trusting. Do not assume they are all like the person who broke your trust. Watch them from a distance over time to observe their character, and trust with small amounts of information  before you risk giving your all to another person, especially if you have only just  met. Watch your assumptions and judgments. These can lead to a lot of confusion and mixed messages. Always ask clarifying questions so that you are sure that you are not believing false information that you have perceived.

I commend you for reading this article on trust, as it indicates to me, that you are already starting the process of gathering information on how to trust again, which means you have come back to the awareness that no man is an island, and that we are all designed to trust, and in fact, NEED to trust, and have safe and supportive people in our lives. I encourage you to check out my other blogs which give further tips on how to communicate effectively and what the characteristics of healthy relationships look like, as well as the ones I mentioned above. I also invite you to check out my website at http://www.freedomlifelove.com and the link should also be at the top of my blog page as well! Good luck on your journey of trusting again, mustering up that courage and faith to believe that there are in fact trustworthy people out there, and even that those who have been untrustworthy in the past can in fact make changes in their lives and once again become someone with whom you can trust. I must warn you however, that this is not always the case… sometimes those relationships need to end, if there is no repentance or ability to admit their wrong against you and make no attempt of rebuilding trust with you. Trust is built, and earned after a breach of trust. It is never to be given without changes that you can observe in them to see that indeed, they have become trustworthy again. See my blog: Identifying Safe People for the characteristics you will need to see in the person who has broken your trust.

Good luck and please feel free to contact me via my website for any further coaching you may need on finding safe people and working through the trauma of broken trust!

http://www.freedomlifelove.com/Pages/TraumaRecoveryProgram.aspx


Dealing with emotional trauma can be very distressing, and in some instances, very severe. When one has experienced a major traumatic life event – from surviving an abusive relationship, to losing friends or family members to a drunk driver or a hit and run, suicide, to combat, or a terrible break-up, deception, manipulation or mind control, discovering that one’s partner has been unfaithful, or being conned and taken advantage of, hearing painful news of an illness that is debilitating or life-threatening – Anything that leaves a person feeling like the floor has been taken out from under them, and are experiencing a loss of personal power, like their whole world has just spiraled out of control… These people know what trauma is.

My intention is to do a series not so much on the trauma itself and identifying it, but rather to offer some self care tips, advice on grief and grieving, forgiveness, re-establishing safety after one has experienced a betrayal of trust, or how to face the places and things that you avoid that serve as triggers for anxiety and out of control feelings due to a traumatic life event – how to face those situations and re-build safety slowly. When it comes to relationship trauma, it is important to have tools to rebuild trust and I will touch on that as well.

Today I just want to give you a sense of normalcy if you are experiencing the residual effects of a traumatic situation. I personally find that sometimes it helps to know what to expect as you go through the stages of healing to help yourself feel like what you are experiencing is normal for the situation you are going through. I find it helps bring a small measure of stability to an otherwise overwhelming sense of powerlessness over the situation, and the loss of control that causes you to feel like your foundation has been ripped from underneath you. Having a roadmap of what to expect is sort of the first step to laying a new foundation.

It may sound kind of silly at first, but identifying the trauma is a good first step – now some of you may think it is quite obvious to pinpoint, the reality is, sometimes it’s not. For instance, part of experiencing something traumatic often involves some of the same stages of grief, so denial is a normal process, not wanting to, or being unable to accept what is happening is actually normal. Sometimes the shock of what the body, mind or emotions are experiencing that a person simply goes numb and cannot comprehend the reality of the situation immediately. I think this stage of being anesthetized from the initial blow is a little of God’s kindness to shield us from taking in too much all at once. Another good example of why identifying trauma can be difficult is working through your own childhood trauma. Children cannot identify trauma as readily as an adult can. But even as adults who endured trauma as a child, you may not see your childhood as traumatic. If you were constantly exposed to abuse, you may have taken in cues that this is ‘normal’ behavior because it is all you were exposed to. So, identifying what the trauma is, is actually a pretty significant feat for some!

Once you have identified your traumatic injury, or experience, it is important to talk about it with someone you can trust – a supportive friend, a therapist, a support group, because part of the healing process is being able to share our deepest feelings to give them a voice. Sometimes it is helpful just to talk as it allows yourself the opportunity to problem solve, bring awareness to the situation, bring understanding, bring the roots of the problem out into the light to help promote self-awareness or a sense of understanding. It helps you get in touch with the emotions surrounding the trauma.

Some people also find it helpful to write about it to help sort through their thoughts and emotions about the experience. Some people organize their thoughts better through writing than verbally. The most important thing is that you are processing it in order to feel it, rather than avoid. Avoidance is normal too, but studies suggest that avoidance can increase rather than decrease the stress and anxiety, fear and anger surrounding the situation, which can lead to further emotional injury down the road, or even lead to physical health problems.

Taking inventory of what happened and how it affected you is very important, but perhaps been more important than that is moving to the next stage of repair, involving FEELING the pain, sadness, anger, hurt etc that has come up as a result of the trauma. It is common to experience shock, anxiety and depression as well – also stages in the grief cycle. The feelings will take their time to pass, each person is different, but embracing them rather than repressing them will eventually lead to subside the intensity of the emotions. Note of caution: For those experiencing intense anger, this is not code for unleash all your fury, but rather to acknowledge it and try to determine what is beneath the anger, as anger is a powerful protective emotion usually covering over something far deeper -like sadness, pain or grief. If you have trouble knowing how to effectively deal with your anger in healthy ways, you should seek out an anger management group or see a counselor for additional help.

To move forward from the initial process of identifying and feeling the effects of trauma, the stage of acceptance inevitably comes. We must at some point accept what happened. This does not mean agreeing with what happened and somehow ‘making it ok’, rather it involves a willingness to live with the outcome, recognizing that what’s done is done and we cannot change the past, and choosing to go forward acknowledging what has happened. This is a HARD step. But it is essential to begin feeling better.

Forgiveness is almost always necessary for experiencing trauma of some kind. If you lost your son to war, you may need to forgive the man who killed your son, or the political regimes that brought on the war, or perhaps your own son for willingly joining the army.

If you were in a serious car accident that was not your fault and have to live with serious physical consequences as a result, you may need to forgive the person who hit your car.

If your child was abducted or kidnapped, raped or murdered, forgiveness may seem damn near impossible! Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do. And forgiveness does not mean you have to have a relationship with the person who injured you or someone you love, but it does mean that at some point you let go of your hatred and anger and bitterness.

I have heard it said that unforgiveness is like drinking a poison you want someone else to drink. Un-forgiveness does us more damage to us than the person who hurt us. They have already caused damage. We cause ourselves further damage by holding onto hatred and bitterness that just fills our souls and consumes us, sending us spiraling down a deep, dark hole of despair, self pity, anger, vengeance, etc. anything and everything that robs us of the opportunity to live life free, full of life and love and hope for the future. But forgiveness takes time. And that’s ok.

Sometimes it is important to confront the situation in order to deal with our anger or to release someone through forgiveness. Sometimes it is ok to address the person face to face or write a letter. At other times, especially when processing your more hostile feelings of anger, it may prove more beneficial to write a letter you don’t send, or deal with those feelings in therapy, until you can face the person without being volatile, being able to say what you need to say constructively. Some people may feel they never have to face the person directly, and walk through that process on their own or with a support group or counselor.

Letting go…. Is just as hard as acceptance, and forgiveness. But letting go of the burden and walking away and moving on are the final stages in the process of healing from trauma. They have identified the truth about the trauma and faced it head on, worked through it through talking, writing about it, finding healthy and effective ways of dealing with anger and confrontation, accepted what cannot be changed, forgiven those involved, and now they must find the courage to move on toward the next phase of life. They must learn to live in the present and let the past stay in the past.

Healing will be easier if you are able to look on the bright side. If you are able to accept the bad, but not only see the bad but look for the good as well. Most people or situations are not “all bad”. If you can find a way to merge the good and the bad, so as not to over-amplify the negative reality, you will begin to see things in a more balanced perspective. You can begin to see alternate ways of looking at the negative experience as well – not to minimize what was done, but to bring balance to your own perspective. If you cannot see anything good other than the trauma, begin to loom for what you have learned from the experience, what wisdom or coping skills you have developed to endure painful and trying times in your future.

Walking through these stages will help minimize your tendency to Medicare or turn to addictive substances to avoid or anesthetize your experience, and help you come out stronger!


My blog is coming out a day late as I was stranded in Jamaica for an extra two days because our flight home from vacation was grounded due to Hurricane Sandy. Thankfully, we were safe and far enough away from the direct impact of the hurricane, and were forced to enjoy two extra days of vacation! Lol! So we got home yesterday and the whole day was consumed by unpacking, grocery shopping, and cleaning, etc.

But I didn’t want to simply leave out the blog I was supposed to publish yesterday on taking initiative. It seems like an important issue to me, as many people out there wrestle with drive, determination, and taking initiative.

Some people seem naturally ‘gifted’ at having incredible drive and determination to make their life successful in all areas of life, while others seem to wrestle with the basic will to live. Most of you are somewhere in between. Those of you somewhere in the middle to low category of having personal or professional initiative may feel as though initiative itself is in fact a ‘gift’ that you don’t have. Let me quickly debunk that theory. While it may be true that initiative and determination may come to others seemingly more natural than it comes to you, it is not unattainable for you. There are those who believe common sense cannot be learned by someone who just doesn’t have it, the same is NOT true for initiative. It is a skill that can be crafted and developed and nurtured throughout the remainder of your life! It is NOT unattainable! It is within your reach!

If you are not naturally a ‘doer’ in life, you can learn the skills of motivation to determine a vision for yourself, life or business that is attainable and realistic, define your goals and communicate your objectives in a way that drives you to accomplish them.

What you may not know, is that drive, determination, willpower and learning to take initiative has a lot to do with learning your personal power. The more autonomy you have learned to develop in your life, and the more purpose you feel you have in life, the more you will master the skills at accomplishing your vision for your life. For more on autonomy, read my blog series on boundaries from several months back. Autonomy has to do with personal power. A sense of oneself and who he or she is apart from other’s and their opinions. I lay claim to the concept that the more a person was treated as someone who could not achieve or was taught to be an underachiever, or was taught that they weren’t pod enough or smart enough in their formative years, will wrestle with self worth and initiative, in part, due to a lack of autonomy that was modeled for them. The good news is… It’s never too late! Learning how to develop a good sense of self worth, and how to develop healthy boundaries will set you up for learning how to feel good enough about yourself and responsible enough for yourself to equip you to develop the skills of assertiveness and initiative – the drive to dream, and reach for the goals you set for yourself! It IS attainable!

Are you aware that accepting and taking responsibility for your actions is not only part of the process of learning how to take initiative, but is part of developing self esteem, and having proper boundaries in your life? Once we know what we are responsible for in life, it empowers us to take responsibility for our life which becomes the driving force to develop true initiative. The better we think, believe and behave in the ways which empower us to achieve our goals, the more self confident we become, we are that much closer to achieving our goals, personal or professional, one action step at a time.

Aristotle once said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Habits are another key then to learning how to take initiative. Eg. If we repeatedly are lazy, we will continue to be lazy because it has become a habit. Habits can either make us or break us. We can develop good habits or bad habits. All stem from our own personal power of choice. Many of us think of habits as ‘bad’ and can list a number of the habits they have that they don’t like about themselves quite readily… But there are good habits too. You can decide to eat a healthy diet as easily as you choose to eat an unhealthy diet. You can choose to exercise regularly. It is within your personal power to choose. If you feel you are powerless over a situation, you may have an addiction. But even addictions can be broken by the power of habit. All habits (good or bad) are formed in our brains involving cue, routine and reward. We can change our bad habits over time by repeatedly doing something different until that becomes a new habit. We can replace bad habits with healthy, positive ones, giving us the power to take control over the ‘out of control’ areas of our lives.

Changing our habits is another way to take initiative. It helps us determine who or what we want to be – fit, healthy, successful, whatever the goal is, knowing is half the battle. Knowing you have power over your decisions and can take action to reach your goals and dreams, empowers you to take the first steps toward lasting change.

If you struggle with low self worth or feel you need additional help in developing more personal motivation or initiative in your life, you might want to consider my boundaries or personal development coaching program offered at http://www.freedomlifelove.com

Remember: You have the power to choose the life you want. Go out and get it! Most of our blockages are stubborn belief systems in our minds that cause us to believe we can’t, or we are not good enough, talented enough or smart enough. When we change the internal negative messages into positive ones that invoke hope and strength and willpower, we equip ourselves with the strength to break old unhelpful habits and take responsibility for our lives by loving and nurturing and caring for ourselves enough to break out of routines that keep us back from reaching our goals, we have just started the process of taking initiative, and are closer to getting the results we want. Remember to keep your goals realistic and attainable so you don’t shoot yourself in the foot with your very first goal, concluding that it doesn’t work. What is an attainable goal for you right now? What action steps can you take right now toward reaching that goal?

Good luck on your journey to getting the results you want. Where there is no vision, people perish. Find your vision. It’s a good place to start!


This month, I have been doing a series on taking initiative and developing assertiveness, and I was thinking it might be a great start to today’s article, if I simply start out with some definitions of initiative and assertiveness, so we have a proper working knowledge of what I will be referring to in today’s blog!

First of all, initiative involves taking an introductory act or step, a leading action; for example: he took the initiative in making friends. Initiative also involves a readiness and ability in initiating action. It is one’s personal, responsible decision: to act on own’s own initiative.

Perhaps you feel you have little or no initiative or you have been told this by people in your life. Does reading the above simple definition change your thinking on that definition, even if only slightly? Perhaps you are told you are not assertive enough and wonder if either taking initiative or developing assertiveness skills are ever possible for you. Let me first shine the light of truth on that negative distorted belief. EVERYONE can develop the skill of assertiveness and learn to take more initiative in their life. It involves work, and one small baby step forward after another, if that is all you feel you can muster the strength for, but it can be done. Before I get WAY ahead of myself, let me give you a definition of assertiveness:

Assertiveness is a style of communication. It is about being confident and self assured, positive. Assertiveness is NOT a strategy to get your own way, instead it recognizes that you are only in control of your own behavior and actions and realizes that other people are responsible for their behavior. It respects the wishes of others as equally as you respect your own.

Assertiveness is one of many styles in which we communicate with each other. Some others include reacting and responding to other people in an aggressive manner, or a passive style that tends to give in to the unreasonable demands of others. We all have heard of the passive-aggressive style, which is a combination of both passive and aggressive behavior which can include manipulation, or cannot clearly express their anger, but take it out on others in more subtle ways, like being late for work always because you are angry at your co-worker or boss, or addressing your displeasure with a result by speaking to the person you are angry with in the third person format, for example: “some people NEVER take out the trash and clean up after themselves” with a slightly aggressive tone, when they are obviously referring to you as you see the dishes you left in the sink, and know you hadn’t gotten around to taking the garbage out. This is a form of veiled communication. Often, if we are raised with one passive parent and one aggressive parent, we may use a combination of both skill sets we were taught by our families. Another style of communicating, apart from assertiveness, is the alternator…. Someone who sometimes is passive, holding things in, until one day all the bitterness and resentments burst to the surface like a volcanic eruption with a burst of aggression. Once the person has spewed out their building tension inside, they may return to a passive state of taking resentments in until the next eruption occurs.

The reality is we all have probably used one or more, if not all of these methods of communication at varying times in our lives! I know I have!

When it comes to communication, and developing effective skills to communicate well, as with all things it takes time and effort to make the changes in ourselves to do so! And the issues lying beneath the surface are the best place to start. What we believe often dictates how we respond in a situation. If we believe no one likes us, we will begin to act like no one likes us. If we believe we have to take responsibility for other people’s actions, behavior, moods or emotions, guess what? We will take responsibility for those things, despite the fact that we are only responsible for our own choices, actions, behavior, moods and emotions.

If you believe you are a loser, a failure, ugly, stupid, fat etc. you will act in such a way as to diminish your human dignity and incredible value as you continue to tell yourself what a horrible person you must be. I do not have enough time to dig into the root issues that lead to a diminished sense of a lack of confidence in oneself in this blog, or why your initiative may be low as well as your assertiveness skills perhaps under-developed, but I do offer a personal development program on my coaching website at http://www.freedomlifelove.com if you are looking for additional help in this area of your life. You may even want to look back through last months blog series where I discussed self worth and self esteem.

But my focus for today is to define initiative and assertiveness and our communication styles to open our eyes to see where we currently find ourselves in this area of our lives. And I want to give you some hope along with some practical help to develop some assertiveness skills today!

Let’s start here. This is what it means to be assertive:

“Assertive self-expression is direct, firm, positive – and when necessary persistent – action intended to promote equality in person-to-person relationships. Assertiveness enables us to act in our own best interests, to stand up for ourselves without undue anxiety, to exercise personal rights without denying the rights of others, and to express our feelings honestly and comfortably (eg. affection, love, friendship, disappointment, annoyance, anger, regret, sorrow)” – Your Perfect Right by Robert Albert, Ph.D and Michael Emmons, Ph.D.

Joseph Wolfe would define assertiveness in our interpersonal relationships as

“The individual places himself first, but takes others into account.”

While I don’t entirely agree with his perspective, as I take the viewpoint of considering others above myself in a respectful manner, in the form of honoring and preferring others, I do believe that to love others we must first be able to love ourselves. The bible suggests that we:

“Love others as you would love yourself”

I believe we must treat others as we would want to be treated, thereby having a balanced perspective on equality. We do not see others as less or more important than ourselves, but rather cherish our own humanity and others. To see ourselves in a positive light with grace for our weaknesses and compassion and love for ourselves as we see others in that same positive light, showing compassion and love for their mistakes, treating each other fairly, respectfully, and with loving kindness. When we can see other people like this, as well as ourselves, we are on the verge of discovering unconditional love.

On becoming more assertive, there are certainly things that we can do to get there. Setting reasonable goals for ourselves is a good place to start about the things we want to improve, work on, confront or address. It can involve learning effective communication skills. In fact I think I did a blog series on that a while back! It involves learning how to “say what you need to say” as I unintentionally quote lyrics from John Meyer’s song, while learning how to say it effectively in an assertive, yet respectful manner. It involves learning to change what we are choosing to think, to become more aware of our thoughts, and challenging the negative ones, and speaking positive confessions about ourselves, learning to love and care for, rather than sabotaging ourselves! Just simply choosing to believe it is a skill you can learn can make a world of difference. It is a big step in the turn-around! If we believe it is attainable, we have already begun taking initiative to develop assertiveness skills!

Last but not least, take it one step at a time! Find what you feel you are able to start with, even if it feels like a small step to others or yourself, and see what comes of it! Don’t despair! Don’t give up! You can make changes! You are not helpless! I believe you can! One small step at a time!


I realize as I embark on today’s mission of blogging about things like body image, and appreciating our positive qualities and learning to like ourselves, that this subject alone should be a three part series! I am attempting to do the impossible in one blog! I will do my best to summarize without losing a great deal of content!

While in general, for a person who wrestles with their body image when they look in the mirror, it may be easy to see all the flaws, wrinkles, bulges, grey hair, and within seconds of asking the question of what you like least about your body, you could easily rattle off about 50 things you hate about the way you look.

Let’s begin with a simple exercise in non-judgment. Instead of looking at ourselves in comparison with what society and media says the average man or woman should look like, let us rather appreciate the beauty in others and in ourselves, and try not to make comparisons or judgments. It’s an effort in changing the way we think about ourselves, as well as what is important.

The reality is, outward beauty will always fade away eventually, and if this is what we live for, we are missing a deeper, more authentic and internal beauty of strength and character. I am not saying “Don’t be fit”, “Eat junk food all day long” and just let yourself go. By no means! I am suggesting that we care for our bodies, spirit, soul and body. We all know eating healthy, and staying fit is good for our bodies in a multitude of ways… Exercising regularly and eating well not only help mental acuity and promote healthy a heart, and make our brains happier, but it also does so much for helping with emotional issues such as depression and anxiety! I believe we need to learn to care about our whole self, simply because we are worth it.

Our worth is intrinsic and God given. What we need to determine is WHY we do what we do. If we are at the gym 5 days a week out of pressure to look good according to society, bearing ourselves up for not losing enough weight, or eating too much at the last family holiday dinner, these motives can actually be harmful to us, and do not promote healthy self care. If, however, we are learning to have compassion for ourselves and learning to like who we are, and are doing these things to be healthy and to care for ourselves, not only will your success and results come sooner, but you will also notice you are beginning to feel much better about yourself as a person. What you see in the mirror will be someone you care for and treat with respect and honor and love.

So how do we get there? Paying attention to the negative messages we are telling ourselves and believing is a good start. Noticing them enough to reframe the message to something positive or to simply say ‘stop’ to ourselves when we begin to judge ourselves harshly, and practice non-judgment of ourselves is a good start.

I’m going to propose a few steps further.

First, I’m going to ask you to write a list of ten positive things about yourself that are true and realistic. For instance, you might recognize that you are a loyal friend, or that you are very organized, a good listener, or compassionate and empathetic. You might like the fact that you take charge of a situation when it is needed, or are an advocate for those who need one. You might believe that you are responsible or successful. Make a list of these qualities. They can be internal character traits or external, such as you might like your eyes even though you aren’t happy with your current weight. You might like that tattoo you have that expresses who you are or that you are talented and athletic.

Are you, or have you been recently,

Kind to anyone?
Clean?
Helpful or handy?
Humorous in a way that helped another person?
Trustworthy or loyal?
Gentle?
Determined?
Strong or resilient?
Do you see the best in others?
Are you patient?
Disciplined?
Imaginative or creative?
Persuasive?
Intelligent?
Co-operative?
Open-minded?
Accepting?
Expressive?
Energetic?
Affectionate?
A leader?
A good story teller?
Adventurous?
A thinker?

You should have a pretty good list by now to get the juices flowing! Are you already starting to feel less negative about yourself if you find yourself identifying with anything on the above list?

Once you have your list, try repeating it to yourself daily for a while. It helps to re-wire your mind and train your Brian how to think using new neural pathways that are more positive toward yourself. If you have just done this exercise, you have just been kind to yourself and loving! Way to go!

If you struggle with negative physical body image, focus on six areas of yourself physically that you DO like, and repeat that to yourself daily! Often we see ourselves externally in a way that we allow to affect how we view our core worth. Our core worth does not come from anything external. We simply have worth. But for the purpose of this exercise, to help you get to that understanding, look at yourself in the mirror several times a day and look for things that are ‘right’ about your body and physical appearance and find what you feel is attractive about yourself. This too, is caring about yourself, despite what others think, say or do, increasing your own sense of intrinsic worth which is not dependent on such externals like other’s opinions or popular media ideals.

Next, let’s take a look at the deeper part of the self. Your character. Your moral values and strengths you possess in these areas. As they say, beauty is only skin deep. If all you have is the outward looks, but are empty inside, you will become a shell of a person. The charisma of a person comes from what is on the inside and flows outward. Let’s look at the inward beauty you possess, which miraculously, automatically makes you more beautiful outwardly!

Which qualities from the list below do you identify with and feel are attributes you possess? Mental note, do not look at this list from a place of judgment of yourself for each quality you don’t identify with. Without counting a score, or getting down on yourself for what you don’t relate with, simply take a few moments to enjoy the qualities YOU possess! We are all unique and have our own gifts, skills and talents. None of us were meant to all possess all qualities. Variety is the spice of life!

Do you feel like you have:

Integrity?
Love?
Empathy?
Knowledge?
Affection?
Compassion?
Patience?
Respect for others? Yourself?
Willing to admit your faults?
Honesty?
Helpfulness?
Thoughtfulness?
Supportive?
Tolerance or appreciation for diversity?
Trustworthy?
Forgiveness?
Hope?
Selflessness?
Friendliness?
Courtesy?
Appreciation?
Gentleness?

Your challenge today is to combat your negative self judgments with anything positive from the lists above that you identified with, and repeat them to yourself and remind yourself to have compassion toward yourself and self care by being loving toward yourself!

Good luck!


Each one of us has within us weak parts of our character, defined by psychologists as an Achilles heel based on the Greek myth of Achilles and his mother Thetis. According to legend, when he was born, his mother, in an effort to make him immortal, took Achilles to the Styx river and dropped him. She held him by one heel. The area she held him on his heel remained dry and was not touched by the water in the river. It was the one vulnerable place on Achilles. Years later, Achilles was the hero of many great battles during the Trojan War. Legend suggests Paris, Prince of Troy, shot an arrow in his heal in the spot untouched by the waters to make him immortal. Since that spot remained untouched by the waters of immortality, the arrow struck him there and he died.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In modern day psychology, they loosely take this concept to define that there is usually at least one dominant negative attitude or defensive and possibly destructive pattern of thinking, feeling or acting. We all have at least one lifelong chief character flaw or personality defect.

Now how, you may ask, is this going to help me with my sense of worth? Bear with me, as I unpack this a little further and we learn together how to appreciate our strengths, but also to have compassion for our weaknesses.

According to psychologists, our chief feature (dominant negative attitude) is our primary ego defense as well as our main stumbling block in life.

The seven chief features they suggest are:

Self-Depreciation
(belittling/diminishing/undervaluing oneself)

Self-Destructiom
(sabotaging/punishing/harming oneself)

Martyrdom
(reacting as if persecuted/victimized/oppressed)

Stubbornness
(resisting change in one’s life)

Greed
(selfish over-indulgence, over consumption)

Arrogance
(inflating/exalting/overvaluing oneself)

Impatience
(reacting as though being sabotaged/obstructed)

I bring this up for a very important reason. Those of us who identify with one or more (or maybe all, and that’s ok… Have compassion for yourself! 🙂 from the above list , will understand why this has much to do with your feelings about yourself.

For those of us who wrestle with self-depravation will identify with feelings of inadequacy, or perhaps you identify with the feeling of loss of control that accompanies self-destructive tendencies. The Martyrs among us may feel worthless about themselves. Stubbornness may cause the fear of change or new situations. Psychologists associate greed with fearing lack or not having enough. Those who wrestle with arrogance fear their vulnerability, and the impatient may fear missed or lost opportunities.

We can all relate to feeling either unlovable, worthless, rejected, and a host of other core issues that seem to plague us for a lifetime without the appropriate tools to overcome the self-defeating beliefs we cling to.

Today I simply want to remind you that your core worth does NOT diminish because of any of your weaknesses. Nor does it increase because of your personal strengths or external accomplishments. You may ‘feel better’ about yourself for a time when you succeed, but if your worth comes from something extrinsic (an outside source – such as performance, or people’s approval), your level of a perceived sense of worth will rise and fall like the tides in the sea. In out, up, down, swayed by a negative comment about your weight or performance at work, or a personal expectation you set for yourself that you failed to meet.

But IF your worth is intrinsic, your motivation is not determined by external factors, but rather it occurs because we ate driven to do something because we want to learn, change, grow or be healthy, or just because it’s fun and interesting to us, or because, most importantly, we recognize that our worth is innate and God – given, we will not do the things we do for fear of punishment or to gain a reward or approval. Rather, our motivation will come from loving ourselves compassionately and loving others.

If we care about ourselves in a healthy way and not excessive self-love (arrogance/pride/narcissism) we will do what we need to do to learn, grow and change unhealthy patterns of behavior or unhealthy eating patterns.

Self compassion for our weaknesses involves caring about ourselves in a deep way in order to heal these dysfunctions, rather than allow them to perpetuate as we sabotage ourselves by keeping the unhealthy habits around. Change is hard, it takes work and it takes time! Have a little patience for yourself!

“Self acceptance does not breed complacence. On the contrary, kindness, respect, encouragement, support, firm but caring discipline… These are the soil and climate for development.” – Author Unknown

Keep in mind, “Self criticism asks ‘am I good enough? Self compassion asks ‘what’s good for me?'”

Try asking yourself the following if you wrestle with any of the above – ESPECIALLY WHEN you are wrestling with judgment or self criticism or self sabotaging thoughts… Or even if you’ve just been pushing yourself too hard and know your body needs a break:

“what would be the most healthy and most self-compassionate thing for me to do right now?”

Try to listen to your body, and to your heart, to it’s core needs, and find ways to nurture your inner self, not your self sabotaging needs like eating the WHOLE chocolate cake!!!

In closing today, I will leave you with some core thoughts of self esteem that you can try telling yourself as well! And remember to monitor your judgments -of other’s AND yourself and replace those judgments with these types of thoughts:

1. I think well of myself. This is a good thing.
2. I accept myself because I am more than my mistakes, or any externals.
3. I can criticize my own behavior without questioning my worth as a human being.
4. The work I do is worthwhile and good quality, and I expect I will do many worthwhile things in the future.
5. I am aware of my strengths and I respect them.
6. I am aware of my weaknesses and show myself compassion for them. I trust I can change & improve.
7. I consider myself a worthwhile person.
8. I like myself without comparison to others.
9. I feel stable and secure inside because I regard that I have intrinsic core worth.
10. I expect others to like and respect me. If they don’t, that’s ok. My worth does not come from other people.

One more time… Just so it starts to stick: your worth does not come from anything external. It is intrinsic and God given and does not depend on anything external, it is unconditional, just as the love of God is unconditional.

You are worth it!

“There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear. Fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect by love.” I John 4:18


How many of you truly believe that you have unconditional worth? That your self worth is not defined by external standards, such as what other people think of you, expect of you, your performance, your physical appearance, or your confidence level? Did you know that your worth does not need to be proved or earned, and NEVER changes, despite your flaws or moral failures?

Your productivity at work, your talents or lack thereof, your attitude, or even your hygiene practices, your education, gender, race, mistakes, decisions, marital status, spirituality or personal handicaps of any kind do not diminish or increase for that matter, your unconditional worth as a human being. Simply put: Your worth and value as a human being is exactly that – unconditional. Never changing. Absolute. Stable, constant, infinite and eternal, God given value as human beings, created in the image of God.

Nothing external can change your value or worth as a human being. How much money you make, how you look, despite the Hollywood pressure to look ‘perfect’ and be the perfect weight, with not a single human flaw… These pressures do not determine your value or your sense of worth. There are incredible pressures to be ‘ideal’ and perfect without flaws, and there is pressure to perform perfectly and not make mistakes, but the reality is, perfection is an illusion for humanity. We have flaws, we make mistakes, we are not perfect. And that is ok. We need to learn to have grace for ourselves, self compassion, and compassion for the mistakes of others.

Regardless of the fact that we are imperfect beings capable of making mistakes and failing at tasks expected of us, or even moral failure, these external factors still DO NOT diminish our worth! It is innate, God given, and irrevocable!

When we equate our worth to external factors, such as some of the examples we looked at, we allow our self esteem to rise and fall according to external events. Ie. My boyfriend broke up with me; therefore, I am not worth being loved. Or here is another example: I missed my deadline at work; therefore I am a failure. An example of a moral failure: ‘my marriage didn’t work out and ended in divorce because I was abusive; therefore, I am a horrible person.’

When your complexion doesn’t look good or you gain a few more pounds then you would prefer, or you can’t stick to your diet, make excuses for not going to the gym to get in shape, or drop out of school, or don’t get the promotion or raise you were expecting at work and allow these things to shape your sense of human value and worth, your self esteem will fluctuate according to external factors simply because you have not yet believed that your core human worth is separate and not determined by these external factors around you. This is difficult to believe in north American culture, where media seems to push the concept that worth IS determined by externals.

Why do we have intrinsic worth? In the words of Rebecca Manly Pippert (1999):

“we are made in the image of God, a God of beauty… God declared his creation good.”

In the words of the Dalai Lama:

“Your feeling ‘I am of no value’ is wrong. Absolutely wrong.”

“When our value as human beings depends on what we make with our hands and minds, we become victims of the fear tactics of our world. When productivity is our main way of overcoming self-doubt, we are extremely vulnerable to rejection and criticism and prone to inner anxiety and depression.” – Henry Nouwen

“God don’t make no junk!” -author unknown

Perfect love drives out fear. Only God is perfect, and perfect love comes from him. If a perfect God declared his creation as good, who are we to dispute that? God determined we have worth regardless of externals. So be it! The problem comes when we allow other people to determine our worth, desperately seeking their approval. Our worth does not come from other imperfect people’s judgment of us. Whether accepted or rejected by the people we try to show we are worthy of their love time, approval or attention, they have no power to diminish our worth. So let’s decide together to not give that power to other people’s opinions of us, and stand firmly with the confidence of believing our worth is innate and God given and nothing and no one can ever change that!

You are worth more than you know!


Why Self Esteem? Experts appear to agree that a healthy sense os self worth and value helps contribute to better health, physically and emotionally, improves cognitive function, and general performance, while a lack of self esteem, or low self-worth, or even self-hatred, contribute to a host of problem areas, including:

Depression
Stress & Anxiety
Entering into abusive or unhealthy relationships
Alcohol Abuse
Eating Disorders & Unhealthy Dieting
Poor communication
Hostility
Low performance & achievement
Dependency
Withdrawal, Isolation & Loneliness
Preoccupation with Problems.

It’s amazing how the way we view ourselves can affect so many areas of our life. It also amazes me how many of us struggle with being our own worst internal critic, sabotaging ourselves by believing messages that simply aren’t true of ourselves, and judging ourselves harshly and over-critically, rather than showing ourselves compassion.

Kristin Neff, author of the book, “Self Compassion”, suggests that when wrongdoers are treated with compassion rather than harsh condemnation, cycles of conflict and suffering can be broken!” She also openly claims that “if we were perfect, we wouldn’t be human; we’d be Barbie & Ken.” acknowledging the weakness and imperfections of our humanity. She sites Jesus as an example when he said “Let him without sin cast the first stone’, and later, as he hung dying on the cross, he said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ The message was clear: we need to have understanding and compassion for even the worst wrongdoers, ourselves included.”

Why are we such harsh critics of our weaknesses, failings and mistakes? Doing so only leads to greater depression, self hatred, addictions, and further self sabotage and pain. When we grow up in a less than thriving environment, it is as if our brains are hard wired to be drawn to repeat those same patterns throughout life. Abused, we either become abusive or look for abusive relationships, subconsciously, as an example. While this is not always the case, as there are exceptions, generally if we grew up with a lack of nurture, sense of safety, role reversal relationships, abuse, excessive alcohol use, we grow up in an environment that lacks the proper breeding ground for our brains to function with a positive self image. See my previous articles on brain re-training to understand how our brains work and the information they take in, and how they are able to re-wire previous negative circuitry of the brain to involve higher brain functioning to overcome the negative patterns of thinking that decrease our sense of self worth. While this is a fascinating subject to me, and I will likely blog more on this topic in coming months, I do not want to get too far of track by getting too technical in this blog!

Here’s a little self esteem checkup taken from the book, “The Self Esteem Workbook”, which I highly recommend you to read if you struggle at all with self esteem.

Rate from 0-10 how much you believe the following statements. This will give you an idea of where you are currently in you sense of self esteem.

1. I am a worthwhile person.
2. I am as valuable as a person as anyone else.
3. I have the qualities I need to live well.
4. When I look into my eyes in the mirror I have a pleasant feeling.
5. I don’t feel like an overall failure.
6. I can laugh at myself.
7. I am happy to be me.
8. I like myself, even when others reject me.
9. I love and support myself, regardless of what happens.
10. I am generally satisfied with the way I am developing as a person.
11. I respect myself.
12. I’d rather be me than anyone else.

Next rate yourself from 0-100 on a scale from total lack of self esteem, to total fullness of self esteem.

Where does you gut tell you you fit on that scale? Now ask yourself why that is. See what answers come to the surface. This is the beginning of paying attention to what your core needs are.

For the next month, I will be spending every Friday blogging about self image and self worth.

Today is simply an intro on how to build self esteem.

I will leave you today with a definition of what self esteem is, and the foundations of building self esteem. Next Friday we will delve a little deeper.

What is Self Esteem?

“Self Esteem is a realistic, appreciative liking of oneself. Realistic means accurate and honest. Appreciative implies positive feelings and liking.” – The Self Esteem Workbook

Self Esteem involves self confidence. A belief in one’s abilities. It involves accepting yourself, having compassion for yourself, looking at yourself as neither less than or greater than others, with proper humility and awareness that all of humanity involves weakness and imperfections, with grace for both ourselves and others mistakes.

The Foundation of self esteem involves three things; like building blocks, these three attributes build self esteem:

1. Unconditional Worth.
2. Love
3. Growing

These three building blocks help build a proper, healthy working sense of self esteem.

Stay tuned. Over the next few weeks I hope to equip you with some solid tools to get your sense of self worth out of the gutter, and moving in a more positive direction! It IS possible to retrain our brains, it’s just like physical exercise, it takes work to examine what we are thinking, and consciously taking an effort to think more positively of ourselves. Visualize yourself in the ideal situation, that your needs are met, that you are happy and fulfilled… Apparently, according to research, simple exercises like this DO help. Even if you don’t believe it, spending a few minutes thinking like this, empowers our brain to feel happier, in just the same way that smiling, even if forced, “activates significant areas of the brain – good mental therapy. So at least once in a while, force yourself to laugh or smile, even if you…are smiling through your tears… Get your facial muscles moving!” – Susan Anderson, Taming the Outer Child, A revolutionary program to overcome self-defeating patterns. (Also another highly recommended read!)

That’s it for today, so go ahead… Smile. Even if it’s forced, it triggers neurons in your brain that help the process of retraining our brains to live a healthier lifestyle, and move up the ladder of self esteem.

I will leave you with one last piece of food for thought… To get you thinking about your needs and how to show self compassion to those needs. Take a look at the photo below from Maslov’s hierarchy of needs:

Have a great day!

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