Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Art of Being Youself

As a child I can distinctly recall my mother offering the following advice to me as I set out on my first day at a new high school - "Everything will be O.K. Just Be Yourself".  This line was suppose to make me feel reassured that by the end of the day I would be surrounded by friends and accepted as a part of the class group.  Did I feel reassured - Hell No.  "Just Be Myself when I felt fat, had pimples galore and was not even dressed in the right uniform".  I'd stand out like the proverbial 'dog's balls'.  I was certain to spend the day alone - a social outcast.   Everything was wrong about me. My mother was obviously delusional.

Even as an adult I can still fall into the deficit thinking trap - wasting time thinking about the things I should do or worse should be - I should exercise more, I should ear more healthy, I should stick to a budget, I should be a better mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend.  I should be more generous with my time, I should be more patient or I should be more grateful.  The list goes on.

However I have come to realise that a preoccupation with what we should be distracts us from the things we are and prevents us from valuing ourselves.  Always wishing or trying to be something we are not also prevents us living to our fullest and having authentic relationships with others.

Guidelines for accepting yourself as immeasurably, utterly and completely fine as you are - warts and all:

  1. Accept Yourself Body and Soul -
    Do you look in the mirror and compare yourself to a younger version of yourself? Well STOP that right now.  Instead take a Good Look (positives and negatives) and make a real appraisal of how you look now.  Be realistic. Look at your list. Now you have a choice -  If you are dissatisfied with the way things are then you can either accept them or take action to change them. Recently, I decided that keeping all my old size 10 clothing (in case I lost weight) was in fact weighing me down and holding me back from being who I am now.  Not only was I never going to get back into them, they no longer suited my style.  What is holding you back from being the CURRENT you. Spend some in front of a mirrortime reflecting on all those 
  2. Know your Own Values -
     Our values guide our action and choices. If you know what is important to you and stay true to that then you will feel more satisfied. . In addition, you are more likely to connect with other people who have similar values to you.  This often leads to long term friendships and greater satisfaction within the relationship.Steven Hanel, The Emotion Machine , provides a  5 minute activity to help you determine your most important values. Give it a try. 
  3. Don't Pretend to Be Something You're Not  (or like something you don't) -
    Keeping up with the Jones is an exhausting game for anyone to play.  If being part of a crowd requires you to ACT a part, then get out of the play before you are caught out as a fraud.  There will be no applause, only tears if that happens. Focus on your own dreams and goals. Think about what is important to you and where you want to go.
  4. Know your own Strengths and Stretches -
    We are all comprised of an alloy of our merits and our imperfections. Acknowledging our liabilities without blaming someone else leads to acceptance and capacity to grow. Equally important is the identification of our strengths.  I don't mean bragging about how good we are at something but knowing what skills we possess.  A quick way to discover your strengths is to take the “Brief Strengths Test” created by Martin Seligman.  This test takes just a few minutes to complete and measure 24 different strengths. 
  5. Be Aware of Your Own Thoughts-  
    We can all get caught listening to the little devil on our shoulder telling us that we just aren't up to scratch.That we just don't cut it. We should be more or less than we are.  Being aware of these thoughts and more importantly know how to respond to them.  If that inner voice is telling you your 'not good enough' - what do you do?  Well, you can try and ignore it - but if your inner voice is anything like my kids, the more I try and ignore their harping, the louder they get. Alternatively you can test, challenge and change your self-talk. You can change some of the negative aspects of your thinking by challenging the irrational parts - take the inner voice to task and question the validity of what it is saying (Is it true? Does it make me feel good? Does it help me reach my goals?) Or try replacing them with more reasonable thoughts. Doing this will enable you to feel better and to respond to situations in a more helpful way.  Ben Martin in the article  Challenging Negative Self Talk  provides a list of  challenging questions to ask yourself. Free Self-Esteem Worksheets  can be downloaded Self -Esteem School.

So while I didn't believe it when my Mum told it to me all those years ago, with the benefit of hindsight and the experience of years, I now know it's true. "Just Be Yourself"  because the people who know and care for me will LOVE YOU just the way you are - warts and all.  

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