Inner180

Inner180 header image 1

Entries Tagged as 'self-worth'

Can You Love All of You?

December 2nd, 2008 · 2 Comments

pink-flower_000005420955xsmallI love the story of Evy McDonald, who suffered from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), an incurable, usually fatal, neuromuscular disease that destroys the body’s motor neurons, the nerve cells that control voluntary movement.

Sitting in her wheelchair, Evy chose to literally face her disease, and sat before a mirror looking at her deteriorating body.  In the beginning, she was revolted by herself.  Gradually, she became able to find aspects of herself to admire.  In time, she made peace with herself and her weakened body.

That’s when a miracle occurred.

In a newsletter of the Canadian Holistic Healing Association, Evy wrote, “I couldn’t pinpoint just when the shift occurred, but one day I noticed that I had no negative thoughts about my body. I could look in the mirror at my naked reflection and be honestly awed by its beauty. I was totally at peace, with a complete, unalterable acceptance of the way my body was – a bowl of jello in a wheelchair.”

Although she had been given only a year to live, Evy ultimately made a full recovery from the disease.  In writing about her process, which you can read more about here, Evy stressed the importance of letting go of outcome in her quest to accept herself.

Easier said than done. But she persisted.

Evy suggests this as a step in the healing journey, a step we can all wisely follow, no matter what kind of healing we are doing:  “Release all expectations of how it will turn out. Your body may heal completely – or not at all. You may find that a wheelchair, cane, walker or crutches becomes an integral part of your daily life. That does not determine whether or not you live in a state of wellness.”

Our wellness, indeed our wholeness, then, does not depend so much on whether we lose the weight, heal our knee, or find the perfect career.  We become well and whole when we make peace with all of us, with ourselves exactly as we are.

Our jobs then are to make peace with our overweight bodies, our strained backs, the times we yelled at our kids when we were tired and angry, the unkind things we said to ourselves, marrying the wrong person, failing the test, and so on.

When we can accept all that we are, all that we’ve done, all the decisions we’ve made, we become whole.

The only thing that’s stopping us is the our failure to see the truth about our beauty and our magnificence.

It’s the work of a lifetime, but I can’t think of anything better to do.

Tags: self-acceptance · self-criticism · self-worth

Can You Be Smart AND Happy?

September 18th, 2008 · No Comments

This morning, I was coaching very smart client.  She’s an academic at a renowned university, and feeling a little sheepish about the possibility that she could actually be happy.  She has a brilliant, highly-trained mind, and like so many in academia, tends to be suspicious of mooshy concepts like joy and happiness.  Especially her personal joy and happiness.

Another client, a genius with two PhDs, spent years as an academic.  For a while, he resisted some of the more imaginative exercises I gave him.  Even when they helped him stop procrastinating, the issue he’d been paralyzed by and sought coaching for, he feared that without empirical proof that the techniques worked, he was somehow being stupid for relying on them. “Are there any studies on this?” he’d ask me.  It seemed better to hang onto his dysfunction than to risk doing something that was possibly unproven hocus-pocus. Better to be a brilliant procrastinator than a productive dupe, I guess.

I’ve done my own time in academia, as a law professor, which carries not only the general fear of academia (the worst fate in life is that others will find out I’m not smart), but also the pessimism of legal thinking (if something can go wrong, it probably will, so I have to be prepared for every possible negative contingency).  I spent a long time rejecting the possibility that I could be happy, even when I began to feel happy. I felt sheepish about it.  It seemed so, well, improbable and foolish.

Ultimately, I got over it.  With practice and a bit of self-compassion my client can, too.

It’s crazy really. A smart person can  justify staying miserable or dysfunctional, because if others find out we’re happy, they might think we’re not so smart.  Sometimes the smartest people do the silliest things, in the name of intelligence.

Tags: happiness · resistance · self-worth · transformation

Roller Coaster

August 20th, 2008 · No Comments

When you’re disappointed, does your mood plunge downward like it’s on a roller coaster?  Yesterday, my new client, let’s call her Susan, had plummeted like she was on the Coney Island Cyclone. She’d sought coaching after a string of business failures.  She suspected she might be doing something to attract this pattern into her life.

In a voice awash with misery and despair, she told me how she’d been incredibly happy this morning at the prospect of landing a fat new contract for her business, but a half-hour before our appointment, she received an email that the deal had fallen through. She was crushed and depressed, and beating herself up.

“So what changed the way you feel?” I asked.

“The company changed its mind,” she stated dully.

“How would you feel right this minute if the email had gotten lost in the internet’s parallel universe, and you didn’t know about it?” I asked her.

“I’d feel great,” she said glumly, “at least until I found out.”

“So what really changed?” I asked.

With some coaching, Susan realized that her thoughts about herself had changed. When she believed she had the contract, she thought she was smart and competent and valued, and she felt energetic and excited about life. When she got the email, she told herself the company had rejected her and she was incompetent and useless. She became listless and empty.

As Susan discovered first-hand this morning, if we attach our happiness and self-worth to external circumstances, like a big contract, a promotion, or our children’s grades, we climb aboard life’s roller coaster. When circumstances are favorable, we are high, excited, exhilarated; when things change, we nose-dive to the bottom.

We hop on a roller coaster to take this ride when we lose touch with our true nature, what Martha Beck calls our Essential Self. Our Essential Self knows that we are always sparkling jewels, treasures of infinite value and worth. This has nothing to do with success in any external form–contracts or promotions or our kids’ grades or any other person or circumstance outside of us.

When we lose touch with that part of us, that all-knowing, peaceful, secure place deep in our hearts, we are at the mercy of life’s roller coaster. Our self-worth gets buried by an avalanche of neediness and insatiable hunger for positive attention and rewards from others.

People change their minds, contracts fall through, and others get selected for partnerships, promotions and awards. That is the nature of life—change and unexpected circumstances are the only constants we can count on.

When we are in deep touch with our value, our worth, and the joy that lives deep inside us, we survive setbacks and challenges with peace and security. A contract can fall through, and we can put it into perspective. We’re disappointed, of course, but we can regain our positivity and hope, and we don’t slide into abusive or self-defeating thought patterns.

Sure, it feels fantastic to land a big contract. But when we are in deep contact with our Essential Self, we never lose touch with our worth and our value, and we can regain our energy and hope. We might even understand that the loss of the contract could, in some as yet unfathomable way, be in our best interests. We save the roller coaster ride for fun and games at an amusement park. And, we realize that the next gift from life may be just an email away.

Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re on the Roller Coaster

1. Are you having any negative thoughts about yourself?

2. Is this an honest, factual assessment of this situation?

3. What happens to you when you hold on to these negative thoughts?

4. Imagine being in the present situation without the negative thoughts and judgments. Does anything shift for you?

5. Is there a stress-free reason to keep the negative thoughts about yourself?

6. What is an honest assessment of the situation that doesn’t include any negative or abusive thoughts about yourself or others?

7. Does this change the way you feel?

Tags: self-criticism · self-love · self-worth · thinking