Archive | Self-Esteem

Banish the Belief “I’m Not Good Enough”

Jan/Feb 2018

Most people hear it – know it’s there – and have become accustomed to it. It’s that little critical voice inside of your brain, constantly evaluating, criticizing and shaming you with a message, “not good enough.”

 It’s the annoying voice of evaluation that prevents you from finding enjoyment or freedom in what you do.  I refer to it as the Self-Critic or Inner Critic.

The Inner Critic can be hard to locate because it operates under the radar — almost like a constant hum in our subconscious. We tend to hear it and then quickly develop strategies to not deal with it. We might get angry with others/ourselves or shut down after the Critic has been shaming us.  

The Inner Critic is tireless in trying to motivate or protect us from other people’s criticism.  It thinks it’s helping – it’s not. 

Critics rob us of the ability to enjoy and live in the present moment. Critics like to hang around in the background of our brain; judging and telling us what others think of us.  They use a comparison stick that never goes in our favor.

You might notice that Inner Critic is loud when you’re trying something new, when you’ve made a mistake, when you’ve violated your own moral code or when someone is disapproving of you.

Critics watch our behavior and other people’s reactions — and nail us quickly and swiftly.  If there’s any addictive behavior; alcohol, porn, pills, affairs, gambling, shopping or eating — there’s almost always a Critic, hating us for that behavior.

Inner Critics are responsible for us feeling; worthless, depressed, anxious, fear of failure, regret, fear of abandonment/rejection, shame, stupid, deficient, a loser and a host of other negative emotions.  

Inner Critics typically start in childhood.  It’s normal for a child to feel criticized by a teacher, parent, insensitive friend or a bully on the playground.  As a child, we begin to believe if I were better or different – I wouldn’t be criticized.   Thus, the Inner Critic evolves and begins to criticize the child to try to motivate them to be better/different.

As adults, that critical “software” never stops playing, even though it’s outdated and no longer effective. Those childhood messages continue to run in the background – and tear down our self-esteem as adults.

Quieting the Inner Critic

I highly recommend you work either with a therapist or use Mark Coleman’s book: Make Peace with Your Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can free you from Your Inner Critic.

The natural inclination is to drive out the negative self-talk with ineffective and fleeting strategies such as; TV, people pleasing, booze, gambling, eating, perfectionism, affairs, anger and workaholism. 

None of these are a permanent solution. 

The answer is understanding the Critic’s point of view and giving it compassion.  Remember, it’s an outdated strategy from childhood and it thinks we still need to be criticized.

Compassion is the balm that melts self-criticism.  If you don’t know how to give yourself compassion — Mark Coleman’s book will help you.

The Inner Critic is behind the insidious thoughts that can make us second-guess our every action and doubt our own value.

―Mark Coleman, Author, Make Peace with Your Mind

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FOMO: Fear of Missing Out

JUNE 2016

Pronunciation: /ˈfōmō/
Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.

This word/acronym is new.  It was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013 to describe the social angst tied to the usage of social media and electronics.

The anxiety that “others have a better life” has always been somewhat common among 20-somethings as they find their feet in this world as an adult.  They hear of their classmates landing exciting jobs in flashy organizations and can feel overwhelmed as they focus on their college debt and wanting-it-all-right-now.   Facebook and other social media amplifies that feeling – “you’re not doing as well as others”.

The social angst of “missing out on something” also hits 30/40-somethings that believe they should have it all together.  They embrace the fairy tale story woven through Facebook that others are rich, happily married and quite successful. They might notice a sinking feeling inside as they view the in-your-face affluence of a high-school friend, who posts a dozen pictures of her Hawaii vacation.

Even 50/60-somethings experience intensified feelings of inadequacy, regret in relationships and disappointment in fading career choices.  Looking through the lens of social media, it’s easy to say, “Look at Ben enjoying retirement — I should have taken that Federal job when I had the chance.  And, Sara’s grandchildren visit her often — mine don’t.”

Even those in the workforce who have a company phone or Blackberry might notice they regularly check their work email in the evening and/or weekends.  This is another form of FOMO.  The Fear of Missing Out in the workplace has underpinnings of anxiety (such as fear of failure or fear of being judged/criticized).   This type of FOMO drives people to be “attached to work” through their electronics, even though they are supposed to be off work and enjoying work-life balance.

Popular writer on psychology and technology, Nir Eyal (author of  “Hooked”), states that it’s important to remember that the feeling of FOMO is common and not unusual.  Nir offers these tips:
•    Delete social media apps from your mobile device. It is not as radical as quitting Facebook altogether but is a quick and relatively easy way to reduce social media use when you are away from the computer.
•    Take a hiatus from social media. Try staying offline for a day, a week, or maybe even a month. Examples abound of people cutting themselves off and waking up to the wonders of the real world.

My suggestions to clients include:
•    Create a written gratitude list (with pen and paper) to remind yourself of the good things in your life.
•    Focus on what you want from life and begin to live your life more fully, in ways that are important to you (not others).  I found the book, “Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren a game-changer for me in my early 40’s.
•    Have a basket by the front door — any work-related devices get placed in it upon arriving home for the evening.  It’s a great place for personal devices too during family dinners and social gatherings.
•    Develop a gentle mantra as you use Facebook, “This is not an accurate representation of reality” – so that you can relish in the good things happening to others while not robbing yourself of peace or contentment.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

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April 2016

Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor and has spent a lifetime studying shame and self-esteem.  I recommend her book frequently, Daring Greatly, a #1 New York Times Bestseller.

She describes her work as “ a career in studying shame and its impact on women, men and children.” Dr. Brown writes, “The less we understand shame and how it affects our feelings, thoughts and behaviors, the more power it exerts over our lives. However, if we can find the courage to talk about shame and the compassion to listen, we can change the way we live, love, parent, work and build relationships.”

People tend to think that shame is only experienced by those poor souls who had abusive childhoods or survivors of terrible traumas.  That’s not the case. Shame is a universal experience that all humans feel.

Shame hits the brains and flips the person into the very primal “fight, flight or freeze” mode.  It leads people to pull in or lash out at others with anger, irritation and shaming statements.

In her book, Dr. Brown writes, “To varying degrees, we all know the struggle to feel comfortable with who we are in a society that puts so much importance on being perfect and fitting in. We also know the painful wave of emotion that washes over us when we feel judged or ridiculed about the way we look, our work, our parenting, how we spend our money, our families or even the life experiences over which we had no control.”

She goes on to say, “And it’s not always someone else putting us down or judging us; the most painful shaming experiences are often self-inflicted.”

Wow – did you take that last statement in?!  We actually self-inflict upon ourselves those judgmental, critical, painful and condemning statements.

Dr. Brown with a bold and eloquent writing style explains, “Shame forces us to put so much value on what other people think that we lose ourselves in the process of trying to meet everyone else’s expectations.”

An Exercise to Recognize Shame
Ponder Dr. Brown’s words, “To understand how shame is influenced by culture, we need to think back to when we were children or young adults, and we first learned how important it is to be liked, to fit in, and to please others. The lessons were often taught by shame; sometimes overtly, other times covertly. Regardless of how they happened, we can all recall experiences of feeling rejected, diminished and ridiculed. Eventually, we learned to fear these feelings. We learned how to change our behaviors, thinking and feelings to avoid feeling shame. “

Think about or journal about a time in childhood, where you felt shame.  You might remember one incident with great clarity or it might be a common thread that runs through several memories. Record the feelings and thoughts that you had during the incident. How did you feel afterwards. What beliefs did you form about yourself or others?  Did you want to move towards others or to move away from them? Notice what body sensations you experience as you think about shame.  Close your eyes — does that shame feeling have a sound, color, texture, temperature or image that goes along with it?  Lastly, think about how that shame scene still influences you today.

Solution: Empathy Dissolves Shame 
Experiencing shame can feel like an emotional, spiritual and physical attack on your very being. Developing tools to embrace compassionate self-talk to replace negative self-talk is key.  You might begin by reading Brené Brown’s book (Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead) which is chocked full of information and tools.

If you feel that you need more help, seek out a mentor, priest/pastor, spiritual director or counselor to help you replace self-criticism with wellness and compassion.

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Feeling Bad About Yourself? It’s your Inner Critic.

November 2015

An Inner Critic is the constant stream of inner evaluation of yourself and others.  Similar to background music in a coffee shop — the Critic becomes background chatter in your mind. It is often surprising to people when they begin to realize how much/often that Critic spews its negative dialogue.

The critical inner voice seems to monitor your behavior and thoughts, easily handing out sub-par performance ratings.  It mocks you, shames you, puts fear in your heart, tells you to not try hard or pushes you into high performance.  It drives anxiety, depression, anger and self-loathing and push you into exhaustion.

What’s your Inner Critic say?
You’re not good enough.
You’re going to fail.
You are a failure.
No one likes you.
No one loves you.
You’re a bad mom.
You’re an idiot.
Work harder.
You’re fat
Give up.
Stay small.
You’re stupid.
That was stupid.
Don’t take that risk.
You drink too much.
They think you’re a loser.
He/She doesn’t care about you.
You’ll never, ever be good enough.  Never. Ever.

People are addicted to self-criticism. Who among us hasn’t had the experience of learning to be judgmental of ourselves as a teenager, when we are so worried about how we’re going to appear to others or what might happen if we don’t perform well?

Noticing the Inner Critic
The first step in noticing the voice of your Inner Critic, recognizing when it begins to attack you.  What are your triggers?  Attending certain social events? Speaking in a meeting? Asking someone out on a date? Trying on clothes? Making a mistake? Being criticized by a friend/boss/sibling?  Not getting a promotion? Yelling at your children? Drinking too much? Not performing well at work?

Making Peace with the Critic
The key to lessening the voice of the Critic is to understand it.  Now that you begin to notice when it attacks you — let’s understandwhy attacks and shames you.

Grab a journal and spend some time with the following.

When did the Critic begin to attack you?  Think of the earliest memories or the evidence of events that have happened in the past that substantiate why it attacks you.  Ponder those memories and past evidence.

Ask that critical voice some questions:

  • What is it trying to accomplish by judging, belittling or pushing you?
  • What is it afraid would happen if it didn’t do that?
  • What is it trying to protect you from?

Notice – is there a small part of you that absorbs everything the Critic says and believes those messages? (I am hopeless.  I am not good enough. I am a failure.  I am worthless. There is something wrong with me. I’m ugly/fat.)

Is it true that you have an Inner Critic AND you have a part of you thatbelieves the Inner Critic?  Most likely — yes.

As you take a next deep breath, see if you can feel some compassion toward the vulnerable part of you that holds that fear or belief.

As an example — I see that vulnerable 13-year old inside of me who holds the false belief that mom and dad won’t love me if I do poorly in school or sports.  The Inner Critic began to push me hard at a young age to succeed and achieve — so I wouldn’t fail and lose their love.

The Critic certainly helped me to achieve things in life and to succeed — and I’m grateful for that.  The problem is that the Critic never stopped criticizing me even during success.   It pushed me relentlessly with constant criticism into my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, causing my stress levels to rise.  I became an expert at self-shaming myself if I didn’t perform well.

Once I began to appreciate the efforts of the Inner Critic and I felt compassion for that 13-year old (who still believed good grades = more love) — it became the magic bullet to love myself for who I am — not for what I do.

The old adage “Love yourself” need not just be another cliché.  It can become your truth as you begin to quiet the voice of the Critic.
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Emotional Eating: 5 Reasons Why You Can’t Stop

July 2015

Why are you eating?  Paying attention to the answer is key.

It’s astonishing to hear that the weight-loss industry in the United States hauls in $40 billion annually with diet pills, diet books, meal plans and surgical procedures.   The number of people who are dieting at any given time is 100 million, with an average of 4-5 diets each year.

Yet, obesity continues to accelerate and the United States is facing a health epidemic related to excessive consumption.  Why?

1. Unawareness
Emotional eating is when you’re full and you continue to eat. Snacks and dessert are often eaten when you are not hungry and you don’t even notice. The solution? Be mindful of what and when you are eating. Ask 2 questions when you are going for food, “Am I hungry?  What emotion am I feeding?”  Listen to the response and act accordingly.

2. Food as Your Only Pleasure
You might notice that desserts and snacks help you temporarily feel better and soothe yourself. Why? Sugars and fats release opioids in your brain which are the active ingredients in cocaine, heroin and many other narcotics. The calming, soothing effects you feel are real.  The solution? Find other ways to soothe with a healthy dose of something else; a good book, a walk in the park, a warm bath, meditation/prayer.

3. Inability to Tolerate Difficult Feelings
Not being able to tolerate “negative” feelings makes you susceptible to emotional eating.  The solution? Pay attention to your feelings and then do something to shift that feeling.  Bored – call a friend to chat.  Lonely – go for a walk in the park and say “hi” to people that pass by.  Angry – write a note of apology to someone you’ve hurt.  Feeling unheard — write out your feelings in a journal.  Spiritually dry — pray.

4. Body Hate
It may sound illogical, but it’s true: hating your body is one of the biggest factors in emotional eating. Negativity, shame and self-hatred rarely inspire people to make healthy changes.  Many people tell me they will stop hating their body after they reach a better weight.  That’s backwards — stop hating your body so you can stop your emotional eating.  You might even notice that after you eat a certain food or you eat too much — your Inner Critic begins to berate you, calling you names such as “disgusting, pig, fat, out of control, etc.”  Then, your self-esteem plummets and you reach for food to comfort yourself.

5. Physiology
Letting yourself get too hungry, worn-down or tired sets you up for emotional eating. Solution? Get plenty of sleep and eat only when your body tells you it is hungry.  You might eat when you are actually thirsty — grab a glass of water instead of instantly heading to the vending machine. Ask yourself, “Am I hungry?  What am I feeling right now?”  Use an essential oil such as Lavender on the bottom of your feet at bedtime to help get a natural and restful sleep.

The Solution:  Mindfulness
Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening inside of yourself – body, heart, mind, spirit.  Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgment — being able to get that Inner Critic to relax back so you can enjoy the moment.

If you are hungry – eat, pause, enjoy, savor, slow down.  By pausing – you are able to sense when you are full.  Then, stop.  If you want to save room for dessert – stop eating your main meal when you are still hungry.  Let it settle about 5-10 minutes.  Then have a sensible portion of dessert.

In mindful eating you are not comparing yourself to anyone else. You are simply witnessing the many sensations and thoughts that come up as you eat.

Living and eating with mindfulness means that you experience:

  1. The pleasure of eating well that is based on internal cues of hunger and satiety rather than on external food plans or diets
  2. Self-acceptance and respect for the diversity of healthy, beautiful bodies rather than the pursuit of an idealized weight at all costs
  3. The joy of movement, encouraging all physical activities rather than prescribing a specific exercise routine.

QUOTE: “Well, I think probably the main reason
people overeat is stress.”
~Jenny Craig

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Do Your Relationships Stumble?

February 2015

I often see at least one of these characteristics as interfering in relationships:

  • Do you frequently go along with what other people want and disregard your own needs?
  • Do you make decisions based on pleasing others?
  • Do you stay in relationships too long?
  • Do you use sarcasm as a way to express your dissatisfaction with someone?
  • Are you always trying to make people happy?
  • Do you get silently angry with others because your needs aren’t met?
  • Are you afraid to assert yourself?
  • Do you occasionally lash out in anger?
  • Is the thought of conflict scary?
  • Have you been told you are too clingy or dependent?

If you have any of these self-sacrificing, conflict-avoiding or people-pleasing tendencies, you may be attracted to people who are controlling or enjoy that you focus more on them.   They may also be attracted to you because you let things go their way and you might even push their bad behavior under the rug.

However, this can be an unhealthy mix.  You are likely to get tired of your partner always getting their way or tired of their behavior. You may resent losing your autonomy and start withdrawing or become passive-aggressive.

Stephanie was dating Brett.  He was strong, confident, and easily took charge. Brett knew what he wanted and Stephanie was happy to go along because it pleased him.  This contributed to his falling in love with her. They married and everything went well for a few years.

Then Stephanie began to resent the fact that he made all the decisions in their lives. She wanted to begin a family and he wasn’t ready to have children yet. She tried to go along with Brett’s wishes so she stuffed her own feelings down deep inside.

This was such an important issue for her that eventually she became angry with frequent outbursts and threats of divorce. She didn’t even realize what was happening, blamed him for being so controlling and started to withdraw from him emotionally.

Brett was confused and responded with equally combative statements, wondering what happened to his supportive wife. He never asked her how she was feeling, in a loving and supportive way.  She never asked him for what she needed with compassion and honesty.

Their walls went up and the room grew cold.

Their pairing had started out well but it floundered.  She was stuck in a conflict-avoiding and people-pleasing pattern while he was stuck in a controlling pattern.  This destroyed their love for one another.

As in the case of Stephanie, even when you are trying to please your partner or avoid conflict or suppress your own needs, those negative emotions will eventually surface and tear you apart inside.

The resolution?  Self-awareness of when you are giving too much of yourself away and assertiveness to speak for your needs, wants and desires:

  • Be in touch with your needs.
  • Ask for what you want.
  • Set limits and boundaries with people.
  • Explore your fears as to what might happen if someone got to know you from the inside.
  • Give yourself compassion and self-love so you feel solid even if you aren’t in a relationship.

In order to get there, you will need the courage to face your fears and develop confidence in the right to have your own thoughts/opinions.  It takes practice but you can speak to others with love and respect for what you need.

Speaking out with anger, bluntness or sarcasm — doesn’t count.

You can unlock a whole new world of being a self-respecting, authentic and genuine person in your relationships.

People will love you for it.

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Goal Setting with Journaling: To Live Life Fully

January 2015

Sometimes you may feel stressed because you are not achieving things that are important to you or your focus seems to take you in the wrong direction. Daily stress and underlying tension can result from a lifestyle that doesn’t align with your values or goals.

Brain science has shown numerous benefits to journaling that include processing feelings and brainstorming solutions. This can not only relieve stress, but also help you attain goals by providing an opportunity to work through problems, find solutions, and keep from getting stuck in unhealthy patterns.

Use these goal setting journaling techniques to get in touch with your goals and align your priorities.

Personal & Professional Goal Setting with a Journal:

  1. Ask yourself – What do I really want – at my very core?  If you had a magic wand, what would you like to see included in your future? Ignoring the ideas of how you’ll get there, vividly imagine your ideal life, and what would be included in it. Begin to list the a couple changes and goals to go from ‘here to there.’
  2. Continue to dream and plan as you journal – and take small steps to begin a shift.  It might be as simple as taking a class that you think will get you closer to your dream job or scheduling an “informational interview” with someone who works in a profession that you’d like to move into.  Pat yourself on the back for success and work through frustration of setbacks.
  3. Make updates to your goals as they change with you. Sometimes the pursuit of one goal will lead to growth that will lead to the realization that a different direction would be better for you.
  4. Record gratitude.  It’s important to write about all the things for which you are grateful. This form of journaling can helps you develop the habit an “attitude of gratitude.”  This can decrease stress, increase awareness of how far you’ve come and help you realize progress.
  5. Acknowledge your emotions to create goals.  After moving to a different city – I realized I felt lonely.  So, I created a goal to find new friends, have more quality talk-time with old friend and put more fun into 2014.  By volunteering, taking some cooking classes and asking people to go out to coffee/lunch — my life changed dramatically in 1 year.  Now, I feel “filled up, included, connected and part of.”

As you write — and dream – and plan — and feel – then notice if there are any Inner Critics that come up.  An Inner Critic is that voice inside of you that may say things like, “You need to stay small.  You can’t do that.  You don’t deserve that.  You’re incapable of doing that. People will laugh at you if you try that.  You’re too old to make changes.  Give up.  Stop trying.  You’re defective.  What’s wrong with you?”

The Inner Critic – although its messages are harsh – those voices are actually trying to protect you in some way.  They are afraid of you trying something new or different – they are afraid you’ll get hurt or be judged or ridiculed or be unsafe in some way.
Inner Critics can block you from achieving your goals.  Inner Critics eventually lead to regret as time passes – “I wish I had tried that or done that – but now it’s too late.”

Record your Inner Critics (and journal about them!) as you hear them.   See if you can get an understanding of why they don’t want you to pursue something new/different.

A professional can help remove these blocks to set you on a path of freedom and more choices.

Journaling moves goals and the blockages from the unconscious to the conscious level.  Once conscious – you can begin to live a new life.

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The Gift of Saying “No”: Moving out of Co-Dependence

December 2014

Is someone else’s problem your problem? Are you overly responsible for a friend or loved one – their problems – their behavior? If you’ve lost sight of your own life in the drama of tending to someone else’s, you may be codependent.

Signs of Codependency

•    Have difficulty saying “no”.
•    Inability to set and enforce boundaries with people.
•    Try to please people and resent it later.
•    Have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility for another.
•    Experience hypervigilance around other people’s emotions.
•    Wonder why people don’t do for you what you do for them.
•    Feel like a martyr, victim or benefactor to your partner.
•    Feel worthy and valued when you are in a crisis.
•    Get angry when somebody doesn’t take your advice.
•    Focus on others with unawareness of what you want/need.
•    Mistake codependency as love and caring.

Your codependent behavior likely started out as self-protection.  You might have come from a background where things were out of control.  As a child, perhaps the only defense you had was keeping an eye out for trouble, becoming invisible, or becoming the “little helper.”

Breaking the Cycle

  1. Say No To Being Overly Responsible: The first step is to accept the reality of the problem and take responsibility for your part in the dynamic. Muster up your courage and say “no” to being responsible for another adult.  It’s not your job to run around with a safety net to rescue them.
  2. Say No To Obsessing about Other People’s Problems: It means trusting that the other person has the ability to take care of their own life.  “Guilt” is not your badge of honor to wear when someone does not take responsibility for getting help for their problems.  Speak honestly about how their problem is impacting you — then walk away. Let them fix it.
  3. Say No to Being Attached to Other’s Harmful Behaviors:  Develop a support system through healthy relationships with others and a God of your understanding (or higher power) – to detach from others’ harmful behaviors.  You can still love the person without liking or enabling their behavior.
  4. Say No to Letting Others Cross Your Boundaries:  Practice finding a place of calm inside of you when your loved one gets angry or protests after you set a boundary with them. Boundaries are a loving hug.  Children need boundaries and so do adults whose behavior is negatively impacting you.

Saying no is a muscle that can be exercised and strengthened over time.  Keep practicing and you will find it easier.

Feel like you need more support? Al-Anon is a great place to start.

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Emotional Eating: Feeding Your Emotions

October 2014

Food does more than fill your stomach.  It temporarily satisfies feelings and masks them.  As you quench those feelings with comfort food when your stomach isn’t growling, that is called, “emotional eating.”  Emotional eating is not done as a reaction to feeling hunger – it’s done as a reaction to feeling an emotion.

A key to recognizing the difference between physical hunger and emotional eating is mindfulness.  Mindfulness merely means, “paying attention to the present moment.”

Here are 5 tips to recognize the difference:

  1. Physical hunger occurs gradually while emotional hunger comes on suddenly.
  2. With emotional eating, you crave a specific food (e.g. pizza, ice cream, potato chips) and only that food will meet your need. When you eat because you are actually hungry, you’re open to more food options.
  3. Emotional hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly with the food you crave.  Physical hunger can wait.
  4. Pause before you reach for a second helping.  If you are full and you keep eating – it’s related to emotions.
  5. Emotional eating leaves behind feelings of guilt or regret.  Eating when you are physically hungry does not.

Much can be gained by recognizing the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger.  Mindfulness is being aware of your body sensations and emotions to realize the type of hunger you are actually feeling.

Pause and ask yourself these questions — you’ll begin to be more mindful of what and how you are eating:

  • Am I hungry or am I craving a particular food?
  • Am I actually thirsty – not hungry?
  • Am I upset – feeling bored – wanting to celebrate – feeling guilty?  What am I feeling right now?
  • If I am feeling emotionally hungry – what am I really craving?  Do I need to connect with someone?  Do I need to do something to break my boredom that is unrelated to food?
  • [If I’m eating] Am I full yet?  Do I need a 2nd helping?  Do I need to finish everything that is on my plate?  Am I still eating because I’m still hungry – or because it is satisfying my mouth?

When you engage in mindful eating — your body will make it clear as to when you are hungry and when you are full.  By listening to your body and your emotions, your body will regulate itself to a natural, normal weight for you.

This is not about losing weight.  This is about eating and feeling your way to a physically healthy and emotionally balanced lifestyle.

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I’ll Never Regret that I’ve Forgiven

April 2014

Most people want to let go of their resentments and connect with people genuinely. It feels better to run through the fields in flowing cotton garments — not sit around in pajamas, twisted with bitterness.

It’s one thing to want to forgive someone intellectually – and quite another to actually feel that forgiveness – deep down to the bone.

And forgiveness can be confusing.  If you forgive, does it mean that person is off the hook?

It’s as if one part of your brain is saying “It’s all good” and another is saying, “Ah, I don’t think so.” 
Here is one client’s story to finding the key to forgiveness:

1.  Thoughts Are Linked to Feelings
A few years ago, Chrissie was engaged to be married and she had a nasty argument with her sister with an exchange of angry words.   Chrissie’s sister backed out of the wedding party and they hadn’t spoken since.  

Chrissie was now pregnant and wanted her sister to be part of her life – but she didn’t know how to forgive her sister and extend the olive branch.

After a few sessions, Chrissie realized that her “I’m not good enough” radar was going off big time.  Her hurt feelings were due to what she thought of herself deep down.  

She also realized that her anger and resentment were playing a big role to protect her from feeling hurt.  All of which blocked her from forgiving.

Like the unpeeling of an onion, Chrissie accessed new layers of understanding as she talked about her thoughts and feelings, such as  – she never considered the perspective of her sister.  Chrissie said, “I never thought about how hurt my sister must have been.  I was always too busy thinking about my own hurt and my anger.”

At that moment, Chrissy stopped blaming her sister for her own feelings of hurt.  And, began to inch toward forgiveness.

2. Feelings Need to be Noticed
Many people try to deal with their feelings by ignoring them.

Instead – try this.  Just notice your thoughts and feelings — without getting caught up in them.  Listen to them without trying to judge or fight with them.  Feel them in your body while taking deep breaths to calm those feelings.

Chrissie said, “For years I tried to push down those feelings by working longer hours at work and totally burying them.   But, as I increase the attention to my feelings — my anger and sadness decrease.  I feel more understood – which brings me more peace.  It’s actually the opposite of how I always thought it worked.”  

I’ll Never Regret That I Asked for Forgiveness

After Chrissie reached the place of forgiving her sister – she realized she needed to ask her sister for forgiveness.  

The first step was to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs she had done and how those wrongs had affected others.  As Chrissie went through this process, I helped her to avoid judging herself too harshly. 

Chrissie was now truly sorry for her side of the street and was ready to admit that to her sister. 

Chrissie wrote her sister a letter that spoke from her heart — of her sincere sorrow and regret —  and then specifically asked her sister for forgiveness.  Five months later, Chrissie received a phone call from her sister who expressed her own sorrow, remorse and asked Chrissie for forgiveness.

Chrissie said, “The biggest lesson I learned is that I can’t force someone to forgive me and I have to take responsibility for my own feelings and actions. Getting in touch with my feelings gave me greater capacity for love — love for myself and for my sister.”

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