This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim Giles explains how to separate your self-worth from your stuff.
I live in a smaller old home in an area where lots of beautiful new large homes have popped up over the last several years. I generally love where we live and the people who live here, but I hate that I feel the nagging impulse to "keep up with the Joneses." I understand it's fear-based, that I'm wanting to feel like I'm just as good as those around me. But I'm hoping you can give some helpful advice to navigate this. It's hard when my kids have friends over and I perceive they aren't having as much fun because we don't have all of the fun "stuff" that they have. I know I shouldn't care, but I do. How do I explain to my kids that we don't have what others around us have and that it's OK? How can I teach them that their own worth isn't tied to stuff?
You need to teach your children where the belief that your value is tied to your appearance, performance and property comes from, and then, how to change it.
This belief actually stems from a simple, but foundational belief about human value and how it’s determined. This is a foundational belief that impacts how you see yourself and everyone around you, and it's critical to understand. Somewhere along the way you, as a child, might have gotten the idea from your parents and watching the other big people around you that human value can change. You started to believe it could go up and you could feel better than other people, and it could go down and you could feel less than other people.
This idea that human value can change also lead you to another negative belief — that some people have more value than other people. These two beliefs are wreaking havoc in your life and with your self-esteem, and they are also responsible for most of the problems on this planet. All of the terrorism, war, racism, discrimination, and even the political divide in our country are all at their core, caused by this idea that some people have more value or are more important than other people.
This is a belief that really needs to change.
Since we all believe human value can change, we also believe you can earn more value by looking good, doing well, or having nice things. We believe that good-looking, thin, tan people have more value than other less attractive, larger people. We believe people who live in big houses, make more money, or have more success, have more value than less successful people. But understand these are not facts or truths, they are just beliefs.
Let me clarify the difference. Truths can be proven and don’t change. Beliefs are just ideas that exist in our heads — they can’t be physically proven — and we can change them whenever we want to or whenever we learn something new. It’s important to understand the difference because every day you are basing your self-esteem on flimsy, though widely held, beliefs, which are not real and are not doing you any good.
This is also a system you can't beat. As long as you choose to believe human value can change and some people have more worth than other people, you will always be afraid you aren’t good enough. No matter how hard you try to improve your appearance, performance and property, you will always find people who have more or have it better. You will never win, nor feel good about yourself using this system.
So I recommend you choose a new system for determining the worth of human beings. I recommend you choose a system or belief that serves you and humanity more and makes you feel better about yourself, too. My suggestion is you adopt the belief that all human beings have the exact same intrinsic value and that value can’t change, no matter what they do or have.
Choose to separate your value from appearance, performance and property altogether, and base human value on something that doesn’t change, like your uniqueness. Anything on this planet that is a one-of-a-kind is extremely valuable, if not priceless. You are a one-of-a-kind, original, the only YOU there will ever be. You are irreplaceable and therefore of infinite, absolute worth — just like everyone else.
When you start to see human value as unchangeable and remind yourself and your children every day that property, performance and appearance don’t mean anything about your value, you will very quickly feel better. Because you are changing a foundational belief across the board applying to everyone, you will start to internalize it and also apply it to yourself. This is the beginning of real self-esteem.
Now, in order to make this powerful change work in your family, you also have to give up judgment of other people too. Every time you or a family member start to gossip or criticize another person, remember their mistakes or faults don’t change their value. If anyone mentions the fact that other people have larger homes, better clothes or more toys, simply remind them property doesn’t determine value and those people have the same value we do.
Making this belief sink in and take hold so you really believe it just takes time and repetition. The more you talk about it, the better — but it doesn’t change the reality that there may be less to do at your house.
I would focus on making sure there is good energy, safety and love for all people when they hang out at your house. Focus on the one thing you have to give, no matter your financial position: LOVE. Be the house where everyone feels valued and important. In the end, people care more about how you make them feel than how many toys you have.
You might also want to read this previous KSL.com article I wrote about that contains a parable about self-worth and houses.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is a human behavior expert, author and speaker. Learn more at www.12shapes.com and www.claritypointcoaching.com Take the Survey and find out your relationship shape today.
I am 25 years old and suffer from anxiety and overthinking. My biggest issue right now is death. I am scared of death and every second I think of losing my parents or siblings and it destroys me mentally. I have never lost anyone close to me but for some reason I can’t get the thought of losing my family out of my mind. It eats away at my brain and causes me to have more anxiety and more overthinking. How can I deal with this? How can I learn to accept it and how can I stop thinking about it?
We define overthinking as: Ruminating over things that don’t protect you and aren’t productive. It makes sense to spend time thinking about tasks you need to accomplish, cautions you could take to keep you or others safe, or processing emotions or experiences to work through them. If you spend your time planning out what you can do to prevent problems, it’s productive thinking about things over which you have some control.
But if you are spending valuable time worrying about things that might not happen or things over which you have no control, you are wasting your time and energy and overthinking.
Here is a procedure to follow when you catch yourself overthinking about unproductive things:
1. Practice mindfulness
Take a minute and notice what’s going on in your head and the effect those thoughts are having on your body. Become the observer of your own thinking and what it's creating inside you. Use your senses to bring you back into the moment. This means pay attention to what sensations are happening in your body from head to toe.
Notice what can you smell, hear or see right now. There is a reason people use the phrase "come to your senses" when they talk about becoming calm — you can literally use your senses to calm anxiety.
2. Relax your nervous system
Studies have shown that when your body is in fight-or-flight mode, your frontal lobe, which you need to logically think your way back to peace, shuts down and stops working.
To get access to your frontal lobe again, try diaphragmatic breathing. An article on relaxation and stress from Harvard Health explains how to do this exercise:
"Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural)."
Take a few minutes to try this.
3. Identify which fears are causing the overthinking
Is this a fear of failure problem where you are worried about failing, looking bad, being insulted, judged or criticized? Or is this a fear of loss problem where you are afraid of things going wrong, being mistreated or losing things or people you care about?
In this instance, your fear of losing family members is a fear of loss issue.
4. If you are overthinking because of a fear of failure: choose to see that all human beings have the same intrinsic value that can’t change.
When you choose to see all human beings as having the exact same value all the time, you take failure off the table. You cannot be less than anyone else. No matter what happens you will still have the same value as every other person on the planet.
If you see life as a classroom and every experience as a lesson instead of a test where you must earn your value, it becomes a lot less scary. You can’t fail if there is no test. No matter what anyone thinks of you, you still have the same value.
5. If you are overthinking because of fear of loss: choose to see the universe as a wise and loving teacher who brings experiences to help you learn and grow.
We believe there are two mindset options about the nature of life: You can see life and the universe as a dangerous place, or you can see it as a classroom journey, where perfect learning experiences show up.
We cannot prove this idea is true, however, because there is no ultimate truth about the nature of life and the universe. This means, either way, you will choose a perspective or belief in your imagination. You might as well choose one that makes you feel safer in the world and improves your quality of life.
This means letting go of the illusion that you have control over anything and choosing to have a positive outlook, even if difficult circumstances occur. If you ever lose a person you love, you can choose to believe it was their time to go and the universe (or your higher power) will see you through the experience and make you better for it.
Overthinking about death and losing your loved ones is not keeping them safe and it is not creating solutions or preventing bad things from happening. What happens to them is completely out of your control. It is unproductive thinking that does only one thing — it takes away your peace and joy.
You are stealing suffering from the future and using it to ruin today.
We suggest you leave future suffering where it is and choose as much joy and peace as you possibly can today. This moment, right now, is the only one you have any control over. This moment, right now, is the only place you have any power to choose anything. Use that power to choose gratitude, trust, love and peace.
6. Choose gratitude, in this moment, for all the things right in your life.
Count your blessings and make a choice to focus on something fun, joyful and rich going on around you right now. Take time to send a note to a loved one and let them know how you feel about them. Focus on something you have control over that is based on love, not fear.
You can do this!
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are the human behavior experts behind www.12.shapes.com. They host a weekly Relationship Radio show
I have a hard time controlling my emotions because I feel things deeply. Do you have any advice for helping me calm my reactions and get control of myself? Also, how can I teach my children to get control of themselves so they don’t inherit my bad habit of throwing a fit over things?
I’m so glad you asked this because many of the techniques I teach in these articles involve thinking your way out of reactions.
The problem is when you get upset and triggered into a fear-based reaction, you are functioning in fight-or-flight mode.
Research has shown when people go into fight-or-flight mode, they don’t have access to their frontal lobe, which is the rational, thinking part of the brain. So you are not capable of choosing your way out of these upset reactions — at least until you calm your body down, get out of fight-or-flight and get your frontal lobe back online.
Learning to calm yourself down is a skill everyone needs to learn and teach their children. Children and teens who learn how to calm their nervous system have less anxiety and stress and are more emotionally intelligent, studies have shown. They also have more capacity to choose their mindset in any situation.
It is very normal to get upset and emotional when you feel mistreated, insulted, criticized or threatened, and it’s normal to have strong emotional reactions to these situations. These reactions are kind of like riptides — they are strong and fast, and can pull you into dangerous water — in this case, bad behavior that sabotages your relationships — before you even consciously know what’s happening.
Understanding real riptides can help you learn to escape emotional reactions. A riptide is often misunderstood because it does not pull a swimmer under water — it simply carries the swimmer away from the shore.
Many people who get caught in riptides do not understand this and they try to swim against it. The danger here is they can exhaust themselves and drown.
But if they were educated on how riptides work, they would know they can easily exit the riptide by swimming at an angle to it. If they swim sideways, parallel to the shore, they can easily exit the current and return safely to land, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.
Experts recommend this approach if you get caught in a riptide:
1. Don’t fight the current.
2. Stay calm to conserve your energy and think clearly.
3. Think of it like a treadmill — it cannot be turned off, but you can easily step to the side and get off. Swim sideways following the shoreline and when out of the current swim for the shore.
You can calm down your upset emotions the same way. Here is a simple procedure you can practice when experiencing strong emotional reactions to calm yourself down and choose a better response:
1. Don’t fight the feelings of anger or hurt. Just sit with them for a minute and don’t do anything yet. Each emotion is an interesting dimension of the human experience and feeling them can teach you things. Make note of how your ego (the reactive, selfish part of you) wants to respond. Can you feel how much your ego wants to respond with selfishness, defensiveness or anger?
These are strong feelings, but the more you sit in them, you will see they are not your only option. Feeling this upset is a choice. But you can always choose to change the story you are telling yourself around this, see the situation in a different way, and choose a calmer, more mature and unselfish response.
2. Stay calm. Take a step back from the event and do some calming exercises. We recommend learning diaphragmatic breathing or engaging your peripheral vision by focusing on seeing the two sides of the room at the same time. This may sound weird, but you can’t activate your peripheral vision and stay in fight-or-flight at the same time. Read more about why this works in this Panicyl blog post.
3. Think your way through it. Ask yourself, "What am I really upset about? What am I afraid of here? Why do I feel threatened? Am I applying meaning here that may not be accurate? What will happen if I choose to be upset? Is that what I want? Is being upset a choice? Is there any other way I could choose to feel in this moment?"
4. Exit the reactive current. This is where you get to step to the side or exit the reactive current by choosing a mindset that runs parallel to principles of truth — principles that provide solid ground and safety, like the shore. If the fear reaction is the riptide, you can choose thoughts based in trust and love, and you can step right out. Choose to trust these principles of truth instead of embracing fear in any moment:
It will take some work to master this, but you can do it!
I love your radio show. It is the only reason I am not completely a mess right now. I could use some help though on a specific challenge I am going through. I feel like I need some tools to deal with disappointment. My husband’s job sent us away to live in another country and I’m miserable. I do not like living here at all. I am really struggling as I hate everything about this experience. It has meant putting my education on hold and I’m totally out of my comfort zone. There was a job opening back home and I got so excited that we could move back, and then my husband didn’t get it, which has just shattered my mental well-being. How can I cope with all of this better?
Life can be miserable, disappointing and frustrating at times, but a part of our suffering over these disappointments may be self-inflicted. Even though you cannot change the situation, we believe you can change the way you see and experience it.
The answer to lessening your suffering lies in changing your perspective about the nature of life altogether. We are going to help you do that by recommending you adopt a new policy about the nature of life: It is what it is.
If it was supposed to be something else, it would be.
If you look at the universe and the planet we live on, you will see perfect order everywhere. Everything from the smallest insect to the largest planet in the galaxy — they do what they do, when they do it, for a reason. The entire universe is perfect order, beauty and purpose. Can you see that?
Do you really think your life is an exception? Is your life really a bunch of bad luck accidents that mean nothing and serve no purpose?
There is no way to know for sure. There is no absolute, provable truth on whether there is order in your journey or it’s all just random bad luck. This means you can choose a perspective for yourself.
You can choose to believe there is perfect order in the universe and everything happens for a reason.
With this mindset you will spend your time looking for the lessons and the blessings, instead of complaining about, resisting and regretting that things aren’t different. But you are also going to have to change your expectations, which are nothing but thoughts and illusions you make up and become overly attached to. They aren’t real. You must let go of your expectations so you can make peace with life as it is.
We recommend that you get some paper and write down all the expectations you had for your life (write every small thing you expected to be different than it is). Then tie that paper to a balloon and let it float away up into the sky and let those expectations all go.
Decide to embrace what your life is right now as perfect. This doesn’t mean you give up working to make things better, though. You can keep working on improving things and finding another job in the states, while at the same time understanding that you are where you are for a reason. There is some beautiful lesson you are meant to learn by being exactly where you are right now.
Here are four more things you can do to change how you feel about your life:
1. Accept responsibility for creating the expectation that your life should be different than it is. You created this illusion so you can uncreate it. Choose a mindset based in truth about the nature of the journey. This will produce less self-pity and suffering. Live in optimism that things will get better, but also in trust that what is — is perfect, for some reason.
2. Practice gratitude. If you are going to compare your life with other people’s — at least make sure you compare yourself with those who have less or have it worse than you, not just those who have more or better. There are plenty on both sides. Choose gratitude for what you do have and count your blessings daily.
3. Accept there is meaning and purpose behind every experience. See if you can list 10 positives that the hard situation in your life has created. Look for how your experience could be improving you. Choose to focus on being a better person.
4. Understand that your journey doesn’t define you or have any effect on your value.Your current experience is just a location on your journey. It is a class you were signed up for, but it doesn’t have any bearing on who you are or your value. We believe you aren't being punished with these experiences but you are being blessed by them. You just don’t know why or how yet.
5. Forgive life for disappointing you. You might want to write a letter and vent about your disappointments. Write that you aren’t happy, but you don’t want to live in bitterness, regret, rejection, resentment, judgment, criticism and pain any longer. Choose to embrace what is — and live in love, trust, acceptance, forgiveness and peace instead.
Every moment of every day you must consciously make this choice. Some days when things are rough we live five minutes at a time. Decide for the next five minutes you will accept your situation as a blessing and choose some form of joy. The anger and sadness might creep back in, but you have the power to choose again. As you practice this it gets easier and lasts longer.
We know it’s not easy, but it is that simple.
You can do it.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I just read your article on adult children rejecting the parent’s religion and I agree with what you’re saying, however, my heart is still hurting. I understand my pain is all about me and that I need to just love them, but I can’t help resenting my son and his wife for causing me this pain. He is my only son and I resent his wife taking him away from the way he was raised. I find myself resenting them and not wanting to hang out with them. I don’t want to feel this way, but my heart is so sad that there will not be baby blessings, baptisms and temple marriages for my grandchildren. I'm just not sure how to bridge the gap, stop grieving and feeling so emotional about it. Thank you for any thoughts on this.
First, we want you to choose a perspective about why we are on this planet. Most people feel we are on the planet to do two things: 1. Learn, grow and become the best version of ourselves we can be and 2. To love and serve others and try to make a difference in their lives. We find these two ideas are consistent with most religions and life philosophies.
If you think these two ideas feel like truth to you, you might consider seeing life as a classroom. This philosophy means that everything that shows up in your life is there for one primary reason — to help you learn to love at a higher level.
We believe this experience might be in your life for that very reason. It has the potential to stretch you out of your comfort zone and teach you to love, forgive and accept people when it’s harder to do. It’s easy to love and accept people that are the same as us, it’s much more challenging to love those who are different. It’s especially difficult if their choices trigger fear of loss in you.
We want to make sure you really understand what a “fear of loss experience” is, as we define it. We believe there are two simple core fears which cause most of our suffering.
The first is the fear of failure and you experience this whenever you feel you aren’t good enough, or get insulted or criticized. This fear causes suffering, insecurity, stress and sadness as it makes us feel inadequate. This fear is easier to understand since you experience it to some degree every day.
Fear of failure experiences give you wonderful opportunities for growth. They can help you practice not caring what others think of you, getting your self-esteem from your intrinsic value instead of your appearance, or trusting that all human beings have the same value.
Fear of loss is also a wonderful classroom opportunity for growth. Loss is triggered whenever this moment or event (that you didn’t want to happen) is taking away from the quality of your life. If you get stuck in traffic, on the way to a big meeting, and you hate to be late — you are having a loss experience.
You can feel loss whenever people mistreat you or take from you, but you can also experience loss when life itself doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. You can feel robbed by life when you don’t get blessings or experiences other people get. Whenever you find yourself in self-pity around what you have been dealt, you are having a loss experience.
This is the most important part of this article we want to make sure you get this point – Life isn’t fair and no one gets the journey they wanted. They get the journey that fosters their growth best.
If we always got what we wanted, we wouldn’t grow, and that’s the point of the whole thing. One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to throw all your expectations about how your life should look out the window now.
Life is not going to meet your expectations. It’s going to be messy, ugly, painful and even embarrassing at times. It’s going to include some wins and some losses and sometimes it’s going to pull the rug out from under you completely. If you haven’t had those experiences yet, they are probably still coming.
We are not telling you this to scare you, because life is also going to be rich, wonderful, sweet, beautiful, amazing and thrilling too. The point is it’s going to surprise you and if you stay attached to your expectations, about how it should look at each stage, this is only going to create misery.
Instead, we recommend that you choose to trust the journey, the universe, or your higher power that it knows what it’s doing. Whatever interesting twist or turn your life has taken, that you didn’t see coming or didn’t want, it has a purpose for being here, and that purpose is always to serve you.
Having your son leave your religion is definitely not what you wanted, but it’s not as bad as a lot of other challenges you could be having. Talk to some people who have a child with cancer, or a child that died, or people who have a host of other awful challenges that life can throw at people. The truth is that you still have much more to be grateful for than you have loss.
Here are some things you can do to feel better about your situation:
You can see yourself as at risk of having your life ruined, being taken from, robbed or deprived if you want to, but it will only create suffering. Or you can play with seeing yourself as whole, blessed and well. You could actually believe you can’t be deprived because the whole universe is conspiring to bless and educate you all the time. If it is always for your benefit, it’s not a loss. From this place of wholeness, it is a lot easier to love others unconditionally and let go of the pain.
Play with it and see how you feel.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
This was first published on KSL.com
I am, admittedly, a drama queen at times. I hear this from my family and I have had friends comment on it too. I frankly think they are every bit as much the problem as I am. How can I get them to see they are projecting onto me and are also drama queens? How can we all not let things make us over-react?
The only person you have any control over is you. So, it makes sense for each of us to focus on being the best version of ourselves we can be. That is actually a big job and could keep us quite busy.
The opposite of over-reaction and drama queen behavior would be the ability to see the world accurately, handle emotions maturely, and thoughtfully respond from a place of trust and love, instead of reacting to situations from fear. We realize that’s a tall order and isn't easy, but we believe working to upskill and reach for that should be the goal.
We all need to work on gaining the self-control to pause before reacting so we'd like to share 7 simple questions you could ask yourself, that would help you to think and respond with more emotional maturity. Though, we realize the hard part is stopping your reaction long enough to remember to ask them. You might want to make them your wallpaper on your phone for a while.
Here are the 7 questions to ask yourself before reacting:
If you still have a hard time seeing situations accurately and responding in a mature, logical and loving way, you may want to find a counselor or coach to help you. A little professional help can make a big difference.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are popular life coaches, speakers and people skills experts. You can download a worksheet on having mutually validating conversations at http://www.upskillrelationships.com/worksheets
I was deeply offended by my brother and his wife, and I’ve been carrying this anger for years. The things they did and said to me are really awful and so judgmental. Every time I think about them I feel hurt all over again. They have caused so much unhappiness in my life, how can I let that go?
The most important thing you must do, if you want to feel better and stop hurting, is to take responsibility for how you are feeling. As long as you see “them” as the cause of your misery, you will remain a victim, powerless to change anything; but if you step up and own that no one can make you miserable, because you ultimately have the power to choose how you are going to feel, you could take your power back.
Your subconscious ego programming likes to blame others for your unhappiness, to protect you from seeing your own faults, but that doesn't make the blame true. The truth is, no one can make you miserable without your participation and willingness to go there.
This means you are going to have to do some work on you if you want to suffer less. Or you can continue to suffer forever if you want to, but those are your only two options. You must understand changing, healing and forgiving are a choice. Some people make that choice quickly right after an offense and suffer for only a short time; others hang onto misery and choose to suffer for a long time.
It is interesting that most people heal faster if an offense involves a stranger than when it involves a close relative. It appears the closer the relationship, the deeper the wound, even if the offense is exactly the same. This means we give the people closest to us more power to hurt us. You give your power away when you let other people have control over how you feel, even people you love.
Your self-esteem also determines how much pain an offense can causes. If you have low self-esteem and someone criticizes you, it will cause a deeper wound than if you had good self-esteem. But you always have the power to consciously choose to see an offense as a deep wound or a scratch.
Buddha taught whenever someone offends you, you must decide right then if it is going to be a cut through water, which heals immediately, a cut through sand, which will be gone by tomorrow, or a cut through stone, which could be there for decades. You are in charge of how much and for how long you suffer.
Whenever you get offended your subconscious mind quickly creates a story around the offense and that story determines the amount and length of your misery. You may want to write down the story you have created about this offense with your brother. Then ask yourself the following questions:
If you saw it this offense this way, you might be able to see the hidden gift in the experience. There always is something positive that every negative experience creates. Some experiences make you stronger, wiser or more loving, or they give you empathy and compassion for other people or yourself. The fastest way to change how you feel about an offense is to look at it as a perfect lesson in your classroom journey.
It is time to set down the burden of this offense and focus on the good in your world and choose love. Choose to see people accurately as struggling students doing the best they can with what they need. Choose to let your relatives be a work in progress and imperfect, just like you. Choose to see their value as unaffected by their mistakes and their value as the same as yours. When you do this, you will subconsciously see your own mistakes as not affecting your value either and your own self-esteem will grow.
We believe you get what you give in the world. When you criticize and judge others, you are giving power to the idea that people can be “not good enough” and this will, in the end, make you feel not enough too.
If you choose to forgive and let everyone have infinite value and you see everyone as the same as you, you will feel your own worth is unchanging too and you will have good self-esteem. How do you want to live?
If you are holding onto anger thinking it is protecting you from future offenses, it isn’t. It is creating pain, fear and low self-esteem. It is time to be in charge of your inner state and not give other people the power to make you suffer.
Whatever the offense was, it was just words or deeds and they have no power or meaning unless you give power to them. Decide thoughts or words can’t do anything to you, they can’t diminish your value, they can’t take from your life journey (if you believe your journey is always your perfect classroom) and they can’t make you less than who you are. All they can do is facilitate lessons to help you grow. See them this way and let others go in peace with your blessing and good wishes. I promise this will make you feel stronger, wiser and better.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of 12shapes.com and co-host of Relationship Radio on Voice America. You can go to her website to get free resources and take the 12 shapes survey.
This article was first published on KSL.com
I had a huge fight with my husband last week because he doesn’t validate me or give me compliments enough, and I honestly don’t ever feel like I’m good enough. More of his comments are negative and about what I haven’t done, than what I have done. He says he compliments me all the time and I don’t hear them. I’m willing to admit that could be true, my whole life I remember every criticism, but maybe don’t accept the positive. I have also always needed a great deal of praise to feel like I have any value at all. How can I get him to build me up more and how can I accept it and hear it?
The truth is you are the one who is responsible for your self-esteem and no one else can fill that bucket for you. He could praise you day and night and you might remain just as needy for compliments as you are now. You are an approval addict.
Validation is your drug of choice and when you get some, it quiets your fear of failure for a minute, but that quickly wears off and you need another hit.
You have this problem because you are basing your self-esteem on the wrong things. You were taught as a small child your value is determined by these four things: your appearance, your performance (how well you do what you do), your property (clothes, car, phone etc.) and what other people think of you.
The problem with this system is, you can't win it. No matter how hard you try to be good enough in these areas and earn validation, it will never be enough. There will always be people ahead of you. This will also make you needy for praise, approval and validation, and this always backfires because the more you try to get approval from others, the less respect they have for you.
People can feel it in your energy when you don’t know your own value and they can tell when your posts on social media are all about trying to prove your worth or illicit likes or comments, and when they feel this neediness in you, it doesn’t impress them. (You shouldn't care of course, but because your self-esteem is based here, you do.)
Here is a list of things you might do (without consciously realizing it) to get validation, attention or approval. See if any of them sound familiar. Honestly, ask yourself the following questions to see if you are an approval addict.
Isn’t this more the person you really want to be?
Here are 8 steps to stop your approval addiction and improve your internal self-worth:
1. Change your foundational belief about human value and choose to see all humans as having the same infinite value all the time.
This means your value is unchangeable and the same as every other human being. It means seeing everyone as different (having their own unique classroom journey) but with the same value as you. It means you must give up the judgment of others and casting them as the bad guy or worse than you. It means choosing to see your mistakes (and others mistakes) as lessons that don’t affect value at all.
This will take some work, time and practice to consciously choose to see yourself and others this way — but you can do it and it will have a dramatic effect on your life, relationships and self-worth.
2. Choose to see life as a classroom, not a test.
As a child, you were subconsciously taught that life is a test to determine your worth and every mistake counts on your grades. You can decide today that life is a classroom, and there is no test and this would mean that every mistake is a lesson (which you can erase and try again) and no mistakes affect your intrinsic worth.
3. Choose to see all people as having the same intrinsic value.
No one is more important or better than anyone else. We are all very different and no one on the planet got signed up for the same classes here you got, so there is no level where it makes sense (or serves you) to compare yourself with others. It would eliminate most of the conflict on the planet if we could all choose to see all humans as having the same value.
4. Stop talking for a week (as much as you can).
Set a goal to say as little as possible for one week, and it will amaze you how aware you will become of your approval addiction. You will notice most of the things you want to say are about trying to get validation or managing others perceptions of you.
If you cannot say those things, it will leave you at risk of being judged and you will have to own the fact that judgment actually can’t change your value and means nothing.
Other people’s thoughts about you have no power and mean nothing, unless you decide to give them power. Don’t do it. Choose to see your value as the same as others no matter what, all the time.
5. Only post things on social media that are about building up other people.
At least for a while, see if you can let go of your need for attention and even resist the urge to post.
6. Focus on validating others everywhere you go.
If you are intently focused on giving validation and approval to others, you won’t have the time or energy to worry about what you are getting or not getting. This will be especially powerful in your marriage. There is a universal law that says "You get what you give." So, if you want more positive validation or attention from your spouse, start giving it to them. Give what you want to receive, though make sure it fits their love language too.
7. Understand opinions and thoughts are only stories.
Just because someone thinks something about you, doesn’t make it true. Opinions are only ideas that exist in a person’s head. They have no power, aren’t real, aren’t meaningful and don’t matter. They can’t change you or diminish you unless you let them.
8. Be yourself.
You are a one-of-a-kind and there will never be another you. Who you are right now is perfect and being different, being quirky and even flawed is what makes the world an interesting place. How boring would it be if we were all the same? Alan Sherman said, “A ‘normal’ person is the sort of person that might be designed by a committee. You know, each person puts in a pretty color and it comes out gray.”
Don’t be gray and don’t try to be a color that makes other people happy. Be the real, quirky, flawed, beautiful you.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com and 12shapes.com where you can find resources, assessments, coaching and classes on self improvement and better relationships.
I have recently started to date a new woman, the first woman I have been serious about since my divorce, but I’m unsure if I really want this relationship. Or maybe I’m just afraid of being hurt again or feel unsure about myself and fear rejection. But I’m holding back and I feel like fear is clouding my judgment. I don’t want to ruin this relationship and run because of my fears and push her away — help.
We think what you are really asking is, "How do you know if you are holding back from something or someone for a fear reason (that you should work to overcome) versus holding back because your gut is saying it isn’t right?"
We are all faced with options and choices every day, and often fear making the wrong choice keeps us stuck. We believe if you work on getting rid of your subconscious fears first, you then gain clarity and find it easier to feel which path is right for you. So, we are going to give you some steps for doing that.
But first, understand we all participate in the world differently, according to our unique past experiences. Our past experiences, the family we came from, and the things we were taught all contribute in creating subconscious core fears and core values, which now influence our ability and enthusiasm toward taking risks.
Ask yourself, how do you show up in the world? What is your comfort level with risk within your relationships? Do you put your neck out to say, 'I love you' first or do you wait for your partner to be the first to confess their feelings? Similarly, are you a person who is comfortable with commitment, travel, responsibility and financial stretches? Or do you stay close to home and save money over spending it? Maybe your ability to commit to a relationship is not just about fear of getting hurt, but also your comfort with risk and vulnerability in general.
Many of us play small and safe in the world, we doubt our abilities, our looks, our worth, our intelligence, and our worthiness to do or have big things. We might play safe in our relationships, too. We might feel unworthy to ask out a really amazing woman or think a great guy would never be interested in us.
The fear of failure (fear of not being good enough) can cause you to compare yourself to others, feel insecure, doubt yourself and feel at risk in every relationship. It can also make you show up needy of reassurance, attention and validation, which often cause relationship problems.
People who have less fear of failure play bigger in the world. They commit faster, more forward first, take bigger leaps of faith, and feel more confident in relationships. They have a more secure sense of who they are, what they have to offer, and what they want from a relationship. They also start relationships because they want them, not because they need them — and there is a big difference.
The good news is, with awareness and conscious effort, you can shift yourself from fear of failing and losing out to trusting yourself, your value and your journey. We’ve been helping people do this for 15 years, so we know it’s possible.
If you have real regrets, pain or guilt from your past relationships, it can leave you feeling powerless and unable or afraid to move forward. Unfortunately, you can’t go back and fix the past, or erase those experiences and their effects, but there are three things you can do that will start to make you feel more confident with yourself and your choices. From this place you can accurately feel which direction your inner truth is nudging you. Here are the three tips for eliminating fear:
1. Claim your value
You get to decide how you (individually) will determine the value of all human beings. You have two options: You can see human value as something we must earn and something that constantly changes with our appearance, performance and property (and this mindset will always leave you feeling not good enough); or you can choose to believe we all have the same intrinsic worth regardless of our appearance, performance, relationship history, how many times we have been dumped, or married, how many children we have, or the amount of money we have in the bank.
And you can choose to believe we all have the same value, all the time and it cannot change ever (If you choose this belief your fear of failure will start to shrink).
The world has adopted the first option, though, and teaches us to measure our worth by our successes, our finances and our looks. However, you don’t have to adopt that system if you don’t want to. You can choose to believe we all have the same intrinsic worth as every other human being on the planet all the time, even on a bad hair day or the day you get dumped.
This belief helps us drop the comparison to the others game, and really lean into a sense of confidence and value. This mindset means our confidence does not take a hit every time we are stood up, make a mistake, or compare ourselves to the other guys and girls that our new partner has dated.
If you choose this belief for yourself, you will find your confidence grows and you will have less fear around your decisions. To live without guilt and regret, you must be able to stand firm and secure in your decisions and know you always did the best you could with what you knew at the time, and no decision affected your value.
2. Be open to seeing life as a classroom
Another core subconscious belief you may have gained along the way is the idea that life is a test (which you must pass or fail). This belief is tied to the idea that your value is in question and can change. You, again, could consciously choose a different mindset if you wanted to, that life is a classroom and the purpose of you being on the planet is growth and learning, but your value isn’t tied to any of it.
When you are open to seeing life as a journey towards growth and wisdom, you will feel the universe is working for you, not against you. You could choose to believe that every situation in your life is providing a perfect opportunity for greater growth. This means you cannot make a bad choice, because you can only, as Jason Mraz says, “win some or learn some”, and either way it’s a win in the long run. This mindset makes you feel safer in the world and braver. Challenge yourself this week to look for growth opportunities in every choice, instead of fear.
3. Trust the Journey
If you choose to see life as a classroom, it means that everything in the universe (and in your life) has purpose and meaning, and is there to serve you in some way. When we look up the stars, we see amazing order there and be don't believe we live in a world with random chaos running the show. We believe the universe is a wise teacher who knows what it's doing (We can’t prove this is true, but no one can prove it’s untrue — so we believe it is a mindset choice). This is a mindset choice you get to make every day. Will you trust the universe or fear everything?
If you choose to trust the universe, it might change the way you are looking at this possible relationship. You were attracted to this person for one reason, because there is something this relationship can teach you. What you cannot know is if it’s meant to be a short lesson or a lifelong one. But you are meant to be connected to this person for some reason.
This applies to every situation in your life, too. When you choose this level of trust in the universe, you can take more risks and embrace the journey that comes your way, and believe that no matter what happens it’s going to make you better in some way and for a greater purpose.
With hindsight, we believe you will see how all the dots were linked and why it all happened as it did, but for now, you get to embrace the uncertainty and trust the universe knows what it’s doing and there is something bigger in play. When you trust the journey you can also trust your gut to guide you to wherever you need to be.
If you will start consciously choosing to trust, your value is the same no matter what you choose, and trust the universe will only provide the perfect lessons you need (even if they are hard ones) you will feel more confident in yourself and with your level of risk in your relationships and other areas of your life.
Since learning these principles and putting them into practice in our lives, we have found huge leaps forward in progress. Choosing to trust in your value and your journey make us live bigger and it has always paid off bigger too.
Remember, life is not about having any guarantees; it is about taking the risks you feel nudged to take (which feel wise, even though they are out of your comfort zone) so you can grow, learn, progress and really claim an amazing life. Often it is in these times of growth and risk that you reap the greatest rewards.
Get in trust and then see what your gut is saying.
You can do this!
My sons are very close in age: 15 and 17 years old. They seem to have this constant need for competition and they put each other down all the time. As their mom, it breaks my heart that they need to compete like this and that they can’t see the goodness I see in each of them. How do I stop the bickering and the constant competition and make sure my boys leave for college with healthy self-esteem?
Thank you for asking this important question. So many parents ask us this same thing — why is there so much competition between kids?
Realistically this is not a teen or child issue. This is a global issue we see in people everywhere. We see it within families, at work and even between neighbors.
Recently over the Fourth of July weekend, all our street was camped out on deck chairs on driveways lighting fireworks. It was beautiful; there were spectacular sights in every direction. But I overheard our immediate neighbor say out loud to his son, "Go to the truck and get the extra box, we must beat the Johnsons," who live on the other side of the street a few doors up. The question is, what is driving our need for this competition, even as mature adults?
Deep down every one of us, including your boys, is struggling with worthiness. The question they (and we) ask ourselves every day is, are we enough? Do I look good in this? Do my shoes match my earrings? Am I good enough to make the team? Will my score be enough on the test?
We all question every day whether we are enough, what value we have, and how we compare to others. This fear appears both consciously and subconsciously for our children. Every day they mix with other kids who are better, smarter, more capable and more talented than them, and this even happens at home. This is a reality in life, not just childhood, so we must help them build an "emotional resiliency muscle" — this is one of our greatest jobs as parents.
An emotional resiliency muscle is the aspect of yourself that is secure in your personal worth and value, that doesn’t have a need to compare yourself to others and feels secure in the knowingness that your life has purpose and meaning in every circumstance. We want to help you achieve this for yourself and teach it to your children.
Here are the steps to building an emotional resiliency muscle:
1. Remind yourself and your family that we all have the same value all the time and it never changes.
There is nothing your children can do to achieve or earn more value nor lose it. Your neighbor doesn’t lose value when he irritates you, and no one you know is better than you either. Human value is unchangeable and every person is a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable human soul that has infinite worth and value.
Therefore, when your child comes home with a 4.0 GPA you should celebrate their efforts, but remind them they still have the exact same value as their sister who only received a C on her math test, who tried just as hard and did her best.
When we truly show our children we celebrate their efforts, not only their achievements, they understand their value isn’t tied to appearance, performance or property, and they will feel more secure in themselves. For this to really work and improve their self-esteem, it has to be something you talk about daily — that no matter what you do you still have the same intrinsic worth as everyone else. You may not get the rewards that come to those who work harder, which is an important lesson, but your value as a human soul doesn’t change.
2. Teach your children to celebrate their wins and their losses.
This may sound counterintuitive, but when we place the same value on wins and losses and see them both as important parts of our development and growth, we teach emotional resiliency. We do this by highlighting the fluctuations of life and role modeling for them that every circumstance and situation, both the good and the bad, are here to serve us and help us grow. We can show children by example that they can feel safe in every circumstance and we can and do bounce back from failures.
It is important for your children to watch you show this kind of emotional resiliency with life’s ups and downs instead of panicking or becoming despondent. To achieve this, you may need to adjust your perspective to see life as your perfect classroom instead of a test that determines your worth. When you see life as a test, you feel enormous pressure to succeed and compete against life and others. You view it as a mountain that must be conquered, instead of a process of enjoyment where you will grow and be strengthened.
With your current level of emotional resiliency, you can show your kids a realistic picture of life, learning and growth or you can paint a picture of fear about the future and life itself. When we role model strength, wisdom and accuracy about the lessons of life for our children, showing them every moment of life enables us to grow and is here to shape us in some way, we are teaching them to see the universe as for them, not against them.
3. Detach from perfectionism.
Many of us can live lives attached to unrealistic expectations for ourselves, others and our lives in general. Idealism and perfectionism are one and the same, a toxic monster that can make us feel like we are failing constantly. How many times do you find yourself thinking, “If I just earned more money I would be happier,” “If I could just lose this baby weight I would feel better about myself” and “If my children were more obedient we would not be having these problems.”
Emotional resiliency and the happiness that comes from it require us to have correct expectations and intentions for ourselves and our lives. Do you set yourself up to succeed through setting these realistic parameters in which to measure your worth and success or are your children watching you crash and burn constantly because you are engaged in a game of perfectionism? You must show emotional resiliency and set expectations that are practical, logical and pragmatic so you can feel good about your efforts and model this for your kids. If this is hard for you, we recommend you find a coach or counselor to help you let go of perfectionism.
4. Teach your children to be compassionate people.
When we and/or our children put others down to make ourselves feel better, we are not being compassionate people. We must know our intrinsic value without the need to position ourselves as superior or above others to feel good. What you are describing with your sons insulting each other is just this projection of superiority our egos use to cover our insecurities and fear. This is very common for children, teenagers and adults.
Be mindful of your own behavior so you can catch yourself putting another person down, even about something small such as their cooking, housekeeping or ability to drive. It’s hard but important for us to notice our behavior when we do this. Most of this behavior is done subconsciously as our mind and ego play these tricks to make us less threatened in the world. Instead of trying to feel good by placing ourselves above others, we must celebrate our uniqueness and know no matter what others do around us, they and we have unchangeable and infinite value.
Obviously, the most important thing you can do for your kids is to work on yourself and make sure you are modeling confidence, compassion and resiliency yourself.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are the coaches behind Claritypointcoaching.com. You can get free resources on parenting and raising confident kids at http://www.claritypointcoaching.com/worksheetsdownloads
FOR MORE FREE
Coaching is less expensive than you think - If you need help we can find you a coach you can afford.
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.