This was first published on ksl.com
We all have faults, flaws, bad habits or features we don't like, and these make us feel we have less value than other people. We might put ourselves down, use self-deprecating humor, or often comment about how overweight, stupid or unsuccessful we are.
Many of us learned as children that we might not be good enough, and this belief has stuck with us. Even if we become successful, fit or more attractive, we always battle this same deep subconscious belief that we aren't quite enough. I believe every person on the planet battles this belief to some degree every day, but some people experience negative thoughts about themselves to the extreme and even suffer from self-hate.
After 20-plus years as a master life coach working with people to improve self-worth, I have found three things you can do that will make a significant difference in your ability to love yourself. They are:
Change how you determine human value
Many people have a subconscious belief that human value can change. Think about this. Do you believe if you could look better, perform better, or make more money, your personal value would go up? Do you also believe that if you make mistakes, gain weight, or lose money, your personal value goes down? If so, this is why your self-esteem changes from day to day: you subconsciously believe human value must be earned and therefore can change.
But this is not true.
Many of us subconsciously accepted this belief as a child because the world promotes it. Still, it's not a fact — and it's often what is making us feel like we aren't good enough all the time. If you find yourself in this belief system, the good news is you have the power to change this belief any time you want.
Instead, you can choose a belief that all human beings have the same infinite, absolute, intrinsic value that cannot change. No matter what we do or how we look, we still have the same value as every other human because that's how this system works. Of course, this is also a belief, not a fact — but it's a belief that will improve your life, so I recommend choosing it.
To internalize this belief, you must do two things
Choose to see life as a classroom
Because of a subconscious belief that human value can change, many of us have also, subconsciously, seen life as a test or place where you can fail. But again, this is just a belief. It's not a fact.
You have the option to choose a new belief here, too. You could choose to believe that life is a classroom. The difference is that in a test your mistakes diminish your value (or your grade). In a classroom, the focus is on learning not earning a good grade. If you choose to view your life as a classroom, you get to see every experience as a learning opportunity that allows you to experience something and learn from it without affecting your value.
You can start doing this today. Choose to trust the universe that it knows what it's doing and that your classroom journey is serving you. The more you trust the universe that it's on your side and conspiring to grow you, the less stress you'll experience and safer you will feel. This will greatly impact your feelings of self-worth and take failure off the table.
Commit to a forgiveness practice
Make a few lists
The trick to using forgiveness to increase your self-worth lies in forgiving three different groups of people.
They show you there are faults or dark parts that you believe make people unworthy; and as long as you see other people's faults as making them unworthy, you will also see your own faults as making you unworthy.
The way you judge others is always tied to the way you judge yourself. You must shift your mindset, which is what forgiveness really is – a change of perspective that eliminates pain and hurt — if you want to love yourself more. You must work on loving and forgiving others, seeing their life as a classroom and their value as infinite. The more you do this, the more you accept these truths for yourself, too.
Process your lists
Take some time every day to process through one of the people, faults or experiences on your lists. You can process them by writing about their darkness and why you have felt justified to dislike this person or this part of yourself. Then, write about your other options and how you could choose to see and feel about them. Write about how it would feel if you chose to see their value as unchanging and infinite, and your life and theirs as a perfect classroom. How could you choose to see them or yourself with love and compassion?
Again, this doesn't mean you are going to hang out with or trust this person, it just means you are going to change your feelings to eliminate pain, hate, guilt, shame or anger. Instead, you'll choose to live in trust, love, compassion, peace, and acceptance.
The more you choose compassion and give infinite value to others, the more compassionate you will become toward yourself. Take all the time you need and just keep working on one person, fault or experience each day. Turn them over to God and allow him to handle the justice. Remember, nothing exists God or the universe did not create for the purpose of our growth.
I believe that forgiveness makes a bigger, faster difference in a person's self-esteem than any other practice. But, it might take some time and consistent effort. There are also books, journals, resources, coaches and counselors that can help you in this process. Just make it your goal to become more compassionate, forgiving, and trusting toward yourself and others. Try to avoid judgment, criticism and speaking ill of them. This will pay off in a greater capacity to love and accept yourself.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
It doesn't matter what the cause of the trouble is. It could be long-term relationship issues, loneliness, health or financial problems, or anything else that doesn't have an easy solution and means long-term angst or pain. How do you cope, stay positive, move forward and make the best of these worst situations?
I was thinking about the answer to this question this week as I had the opportunity to ride up and down the Hiawatha Bike trail in Montana, which means riding through a train tunnel a mile and a half long. If you have never had this experience, I highly recommend it. You actually ride over numerous suspension bridges and through nine different train tunnels. This experience brought the idea of "light at the end of the tunnel" to life in a powerful way for me.
In these tunnels, you quickly lose sight of the end — there is literally no end in sight. It is pitch dark and all you can see is about 6 feet in front of you, as that is all your headlamp illuminates. There is nothing to reflect light off straight ahead, so all you can see is the ground in front of you.
There is also water dripping on you from above and mud splattering you from the front and rear tires. It can be disorienting and a bit scary. It's only the voices up ahead of you that assure you others are making it through this, and you can too.
This experience reminded me of some great ways to hang on, stay positive, and get through when things in life are dark:
Only focus on the present moment
I recently visited with a man who battles a nerve disease that causes constant and severe pain, and it will most likely continue for the rest of his life. He told me that if he tried to carry the weight of all the days, months and years of pain that he faces ahead, it would crush him. The trick is only to focus on what's right in front of you today.
Get through this hour or this 30 minutes with as much joy, laughter and grit as you can. Don't think about the days, months or years ahead. Stay present and be in the moment. It's just like me in the actual tunnel, where 6 feet was all I could see: I had to keep a laser focus on that small part because the rest of the darkness was overwhelming.
Whatever you are facing, take it one small moment at a time.
Choose joy as much as possible
Find the small blessing and beauty in each moment. Look for the positive in every single moment. Listen to music, watch the sunset, appreciate the things you do have. Choose joy over something in every moment you are alive.
Joy is a choice, it's not an experience. You have the power to find reasons for joy all the time.
You've heard the saying, "Things could always be worse." You might think of ways this is true.
Don't compare yourself with people who have it better than you do. That will only bring grief and loss. Instead, try comparing yourself with everyone you can think of who has it worse. This will help you spend your time in gratitude for what is right in your life.
You are certainly entitled to a full-blown pity party on occasion, but do not live there. Sit in the feelings of loss, unfairness, self-pity, anger or grief. Let yourself have the emotions that come, then decide that you aren't going to live there. You are going to focus on the blessings, small as they may be.
Find support and people who understand
It helps immensely to find people who have been in your shoes or are still there. They get what you are experiencing at a level no one else can. Seek these people out and befriend them. Start a support group and reach out to others who are suffering that you can help.
Choose to trust that there's purpose in your pain
We cannot prove this is true, but you cannot prove it isn't true either. The one thing I know is that people who choose to trust there is purpose in their experiences suffer less. It helps to think that at least this experience is benefiting them in some way, teaching them and making them stronger, wiser or more loving.
Viktor Frankl, a prisoner in the concentration camps during World War II, said, "In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning." I choose to believe that life is a classroom (not a test) and the purpose of everything is to grow us and teach us. I find that believing this as your meaning makes the hard parts feel a little easier. You will have to see if it works for you.
Choose to see everyone in their perfect classroom journey
Choose to believe that if others have life easier than you, there is a reason for that, too. Every single person is here to learn different lessons than you are, so their curriculum won't ever look like yours. Stop comparing. Decide to trust that others will get the hard parts of their lessons at a different time or in a different way, but everyone gets the perfect classroom for them.
I don't believe that God sent this trial to you though; I believe God created a universe to be our teacher and there are forces at work here that work with our choices to create the perfect classroom for each soul. But, again, I can't prove this is true. It is just a belief. I just find this belief helps.
Get some help from a coach or counselor
Find someone you connect with and feel safe with. Having someone to support you during this time makes a huge difference. Working with a professional who can help you process emotions in a healthy way, find coping strategies, and just listen makes all the difference in how you handle the rough stuff.
Distract yourself from the pain
Find activities that fill you up, bring you joy, or entertain and distract you from thinking about the problem. Don't ignore the problem, stuff your feelings and just watch Netflix to get through. Get help, find support, talk to a coach or counselor, and make sure you are learning and growing from the experience. Then, keep yourself busy doing things that bring you joy and fill you up as much as possible.
It's never fun to go through hard things or dark times, but these suggestions may help you get through those parts of life until the light at the end of the tunnel finally comes into view.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
In many of my KSL articles, I have written about the two core fears we all have: fear of failure and fear of loss. These fears drive many of our choices and behaviors, but they aren't everything. Your core values also influence every decision you make. There is great power in finding and claiming your unique core values, as doing so could make a significant difference in your life.
Your core values, whether you know them consciously or they play out subconsciously, form the basis of your self-esteem, the kinds of relationships you choose to be in, how fulfilled you are in your work, and your general sense of purpose and happiness.
If you highly value connection but have a job that means working alone in a cubicle all day, you might not be very happy in your career. If you don't have many friends, that could make you feel like a failure and lower your self-worth. But a person who values hard work more than connection might be very happy in both those situations, for example.
If you don't consciously know what your core values are, you might find your life lacks meaning. You might be living by rules or values that other people have either given or pushed upon you. If you live like this, you might feel like you're betraying yourself all the time and you probably won't feel satisfied. You might also be choosing relationships or partners that aren't right for you.
Why should I define my core values?
Here are some of the benefits that come from consciously defining your core values:
How do I define my core values?
Now that you understand the benefits of knowing your core values, I will give you a process for finding your values and claiming them. This will require some journaling and some uninterrupted time, but it will be worth the effort. Take time to really think about and answer the following questions and follow the process to the end.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
Many of us were taught as children things like "make others happy," "be nice," "be unselfish," and "sacrificing yourself for other people is righteous." We were taught to be afraid of what others think of us and to avoid conflict at all costs.
Were you accidentally or intentionally taught these things as a child?
See if any of the following sound like you:
The following are suggestions for what you can do to start changing yourself to become more authentic and in control of your life.
Don't commit to anything on the spot
Make it your rule that you always say, "Can I check my calendar and get back to you?" Then step back and ask yourself, "Do I really want to do this, or am I saying 'yes' out of guilt, obligation or a fear of rejection or judgment?" If you can say "yes" because you truly want to do it, say "yes." If you are saying "yes" because of fear, you must say "no."
Practice saying 'no'
Look for every opportunity to get more comfortable with saying "no." You are not selfish or a bad person if you occasionally choose your own happiness and possibly disappoint others. Watch for opportunities to show kind assertiveness. Kindly say, "No, I don't want to do that right now. Thanks, though." Practice saying "no" with no explanation about why so the other person can't try to persuade you.
Try saying 'I don't' instead of 'I can't'
When some people hear the words "I can't," they become committed to changing your mind on that. They try to solve the problem for you so you can still do the thing they want you to do. But using the words "I don't" declares a firmer boundary.
Practice saying things like, "I don't have time for that," "I don't do those things," "I don't want to talk about that right now," or "That doesn't work for me." These phrases are more assertive and powerful, yet they can be said with a kind tone.
Learn how to be both strong and loving at the same time
Somewhere in childhood, many of us got the idea that you can either be strong (mean and selfish) or loving (weak and scared), but we can't be both. You will find your power and your courage when you realize you can do both at the same time. You can disagree, but do it with fearless, loving kindness.
I find the trick to finding this place lies in trusting there is nothing to fear. At the end of this interaction, you will still have the same value as every other person and your life will still be your perfect classroom. So, you are basically bulletproof. Focus on your loving kindness for the other person and respond with strength and love.
Learn the trick to strong boundaries
Everyone tells people pleasers to have strong boundaries, but how does one do that? I wrote a previous article on this topic you might want to read. I find the key to good boundaries is knowing what your priorities and values really are so you can say "no" to things that don't match up. If you haven't defined them, you don't know how to make good choices for yourself.
Define what your core priorities and values are
What is most important in your life? Sit down and make a list. You might value things like:
Give yourself permission to be you
It's OK to be different from others and have views they won't agree with. Have a unique style or way of being and do this from a place of trust that no judgment from others can change your value. Consciously choose to not worry about what others think of you. Their ideas have no power and don't mean or do anything.
Get more comfortable with conflict and anger
You may be so afraid of anger that you avoid conflict at all costs — and the costs can be high. To change this, you need a new official policy: "Conflict happens all the time, but it is nothing to fear."
Anger doesn't mean anything except that a human is having some emotions. Those emotions don't mean you aren't good enough or are unsafe. Anger is not something you need to fear.
You can get more comfortable with anger by slowly subjecting yourself to situations where people might get angry and practicing being OK and choosing to feel safe anyway. Do some things like sending back a meal that isn't cooked right, spending a long time at the ATM when people are waiting, saying "no" to someone, asking someone to stop doing something that is annoying you, or purposely not doing something you were asked to do.
Then you get to manage the ensuing conflict or anger with strength and love at the same time. Or instead of creating conflict, just watch out for natural opportunities to practice.
Practice putting your needs first
Putting your needs first may make you feel horribly selfish, but I promise you aren't. Taking care of yourself is not selfish; it's wise and healthy. You should have an equal balance between giving to others and taking care of yourself.
Understand that avoiding conflict doesn't promote growth
Most of the growth in relationships happens in times of conflict. Those are the moments when we are asked to become more aware of our behavior, our words or our thinking. We have to stretch and put ourselves in the other person's shoes.
When you avoid all conflict, you avoid the best learning opportunities you are going to get. Try to see each conflict experience as being in your life to serve your growth. Don't avoid it. Jump in and see what you and the other person can learn and how you can become better.
Stop saying 'sorry'
People pleasers apologize way too much. Sometimes they come across as feeling sorry they exist and that their breathing causes any inconvenience to others. You deserve to exist and sometimes cause inconvenience to others, as they will do the same to you.
Your relationships should have give and take, and sometimes you will be the taker. Consciously watch for the desire to say "I'm sorry" and instead say "thank you" for their patience or accommodating you this time.
When you do something that really injures someone, still don't say "sorry." Asking "Could you forgive me?" is much more powerful and means more.
Find activities that increase your courage and confidence
I find that doing adventurous things, challenging myself and accomplishing goals helps me become mentally strong. Even lifting weights and being physically being strong helps me to feel more emotionally strong — there is a correlation between the two types of strength. Become stronger all the time.
Change your belief about your value
People pleasing is a deeply ingrained tendency that comes from a fear of not being good enough. Because you don't see yourself as enough, you believe you need approval from others to give you value. The biggest thing you can do to change this behavior is to choose to see all humans — including yourself — with the same infinite, unchanging value as everyone else. The more you see your value as unchangeable the less validation you should need from others.
Changing this will take practice, effort and time. The first step is recognizing you need to work on this and committing to the work.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
Our regrets can haunt our present and cause us to miss opportunities to show up today. We also fear that bad decisions mean we weren't good enough, and we grieve the lost opportunities down the roads we didn't take.
But, we can't change the past. Worrying and stressing over past mistakes just robs today of its potential joy.
It is interesting to note that a recent study published in the journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that people experience more regret over the things they didn't do than the things they did. Is that true for you? Do you regret the chances, trips and opportunities you didn't take or try?
Either way, every second you spend agonizing over the past, you are missing opportunities to be present, connect with people around you, or do things that matter now. If you spend time in regret on a regular basis, here are some suggestions for ways to let go of the past.
Make sure you have experienced the grief and painWhen you lose opportunities or make mistakes it is natural to feel some regret and grieve for the loss. You must allow yourself to feel these emotions and sit with them. They are part of the human experience, and it is healthy to allow yourself some time to feel disappointed, but you don't want to live there.
You might give yourself a limited time — like one week or one hour — to fully feel the pain and regret and then be done with it. Decide that it doesn't serve you in any way to live there, so you are going to chose to be present and make good choices today.
Stop asking 'what if' questions
You cannot change the past, so spending time imagining how things could have been if you had made different choices doesn't serve you at all. Instead, ask yourself "What will happen if I keep regretting this decision for the rest of my life? What is regret giving me? What is regret going to create in my life? What would life look like if I let regret go?"
The best way to forgive yourself for past mistakes is to choose the belief that human value is unchangeable, infinite and equal: all humans have the same value. This means your mistakes were interesting lessons that taught you things, but they don't mean anything about who you are and they don't change your value.
If you choose to see your past choices as the perfect classroom for you and believe they served you in some way, it is easier to forgive yourself. Everyone makes some mistakes and you are not worse or less than because of yours. They are nothing but lesson experiences.
Spend some time writing out all your regrets and disappointments. Make a list of all the times life didn't go well for you, you lost or were mistreated. Then make a list of all the things that went your way. Write all your wins, good-luck experiences, and positive turns of events. Make sure you write down all your blessings and the positives in your life. Understand that the nature of this journey is that life is filled with both good and bad experiences and they all are meant to teach you things.
See life as a perfect classroom
Whichever road you took, it taught you things your soul needed to learn. That's how the universe works. You never miss the perfect classroom experiences for you because the universe knows what it is doing.
The amazing Eckhart Tolle said, "Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness." If you believe this and trust the universe, you will see that it is always conspiring to teach and grow you. Even the losses can be lessons and blessings.
See mistakes as locations on your journey
What is a mistake anyway? Is there such a thing? Maybe all your choices were the perfect classroom choices for you and not mistakes at all. You could choose to see mistakes as locations on your journey, not a reflection of who you are.
I went through a series of bad relationships. Those were life experiences that taught me many things, but they didn't change my value and they didn't define who I am. They were just things I experienced. I have traveled through divorce, being a single parent, experiencing financial troubles, etc. These experiences were interesting parts of my journey, but they aren't about my value.
Do a regret exercise
Make a list of the choices you regret. Then write down 10 positive things that each of those choices has brought into your life. This is an exercise Viktor Frankl, author of "Man's Search for Meaning," recommended to his patients. If you can see the positive impact those wrong choices had on your life, you will feel differently about them. Seeing the lesson will lessen the sting.
Often those choices taught you important things about the kind of person you don't want to be. They made you less judgmental of others. They helped you become who you are today. Thank yourself for making those choices and choosing those beautiful lessons. You were right on track in your perfect classroom journey (or you can choose to see it that way if you want to).
Forgive other people for their mistakes
The way you feel about your own mistakes and the way you judge or criticize others for their mistakes are intricately tied together.
If you are quick to judge others and see their faults as making them unworthy, you will likely also see your own flaws as making you unworthy, too. If you decide to give everyone the infinite, unchanging value I mentioned earlier, you will find that you feel your unchanging value, too.
You love yourself the same way you love others, so a powerful way to feel better about yourself is to forgive others and let them be worthy despite their mistakes, faults or flaws. Make this a daily practice. The more you see them as worthy and love them where they are, the more you will also love yourself.
Life is School
Understand that your life isn't a test where you have to perform well and earn your value. It isn't a contest that compares your performance with others; it is a school where you are here to learn and experience things that will help you become smarter, stronger and more loving.
Stop comparing yourself with others. They are in a different class. You are the only one in your class.
The classroom of life requires you to experience wins and losses. It wants you to get to experience regret, guilt, shame and pain so you can fully understand the human experience. But these experiences don't determine who you are or they don't change your value, and they definitely don't define you. Let the past go. It is over and gone. Be present today and show up with trust and love. Keep your focus on the good you can do in the world today.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.