An Esteemed Reality

I saw a psychologist off and on for nearly five years.  I am a huge advocate of therapy for any and all aspects of life.  In fact, I get a bit frustrated when people are so reluctant to seek additional assistance.  When I say all aspects of life, I mean it.  Before the age of three, our sweet little girl had already attended Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy for her various issues resulting from premature birth.  The progress she made under the care of professionals was astounding.  I feel equally blessed for the knowledge I received during my countless therapy sessions to address my distorted thinking.

While I had attempted to find psychological help a few times prior in my life, it was not until I met with a particular doctor in 2007 that I began to make progress.  I still recall my first session with her.  I had brought in a list of my concerns and why I was there to meet with her.  As I read off the long list I had prepared, she listened intently.  At the end of the session, she had pretty much summed up my personal laundry list of issues into one: I had low self-esteem.

I was reminded of how crucial a healthy self-esteem is in one’s life when I came across this excellent description in a parenting magazine, Parent & Child.  The article “Rehab a Praise Junkie” reads: “Self-esteem depends on your internal ability to generate positive feelings about your accomplishments – it’s not something other people can give you.”  I learned this in therapy, but I so wish I hadn’t had to wait that long.  For years, I based my worth on the praise of others.  I still fall victim to it in ways I’d rather not admit.

This blog is a perfect example.  Sometimes when I write a post that I’m excited about, I become deflated when I don’t receive any positive feedback to validate my feelings.  I suppose it’s the nature of the beast.  But at least now I have the tools to separate my distorted thinking and reality.  Previously, my train of thought would run something like this – I tried really hard on something, received no accolades for it, therefore I am a failure.  That’s where it ended.  How sad, right?  That’s why I prevented myself from attempting so many tasks in life.  I had already deemed myself a failure.  Now my thought process goes something like this – I tried really hard on something, received no praise for it, feel down about it, realize that other’s praise is not an indication of my success, and take joy in the process of the task and what I learned from it.  My previous pattern begat nothing but feeling worthless.  This healthier pattern is what keeps me moving and posting.

There are so many ways in which a low self-esteem can hinder our daily activities.  Thankfully, there are tools to help eradicate feelings of low self-worth.  Again, I will suggest the The Self-Esteem Workbook, which was recommended to me during that first therapy session.  It provides a variety of ways to gain a self-esteem.  One of the easiest methods for me to prevent myself from going down the poor self-esteem spiral is to debunk my negative instincts.  You’ll notice my new pattern in the previous paragraph has additional steps in my thinking.  You’ll also see that my healthier method does not omit the sadness of no praise.  I still feel bummed.  Maybe one day I won’t care at all, but that’s not right now.  Now, the key to healthier living is analyzing those feelings and figuring out if what I feel is reality or something I’ve imagined.  While it might not seem the case, in a world where grandiose is king, reality can sometimes be better than what you’ve imagine.

For me, my reality is much better than what I had deemed myself worthy.  According to my instinctual thought process, I was not deserving of anything good.  And yet here I type, as the wife to an incredible husband, the mother to three beautiful children (and one on the way), a friend to the most amazing people, and a woman of faith.  My reality is better than anything I could have imagined.  It’s not perfect, as nobody’s is, but it’s filled with hope and a belief in myself that I did not have previously.

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Rest Reminder

I was reminded today about the importance of rest in our daily lives.  Perhaps it came to the forefront of my mind because I had a very productive day and now I’m feeling a bit depleted.  These feelings made me recall a workbook I began a few months back called The Self-Esteem Workbook.

I was strongly encouraged years ago by my therapist at the time to do the above mentioned workbook.  Unfortunately, I put it off for quite some time.  Then, a few months ago, I decided to crack it open and give it my all.  It’s important to note that this is a workbook and not just a book.  It really does require work.  You write in it, you practice it, you re-evaluate yourself; it’s work.  They even note in the beginning that you should “resist the tendency to read through [the] book quickly.  Instead, commit now to applying and mastering each skill before moving on to try the next one.”

The first topic the book speaks about is the importance of a healthy body in improving one’s mental health.  The book puts it simply, “You can’t ignore your body and expect to feel good.”  It outlines the importance of exercise, healthy eating, and proper sleep.  Obviously, none of these topics are cutting edge concepts.  There are countless studies supporting the simple fact that our bodies (and our minds) need these approaches to thrive.  The workbook then has you lay out a written plan for yourself in an effort to better care for your body before trying to work on your mental health.  I wrote my plan.  I attempted my plan.  I cut corners on my plan.  Then, I forgot my plan.  Then, because it told me to not go on in the workbook until I applied and mastered each skill, I stopped the book.

Sadly, it’s not the first time I’ve stopped something because it got too hard.  I’m sure I’m not alone in this department.  While I need improvement in all of these categories, sleep seems to be the easiest one to adjust and yet I stay up way too late every night.  I’m already a grouch as it is in the morning, the last thing I need to add to my morning routine is sleep deprivation.

When I was at my absolute worst about not getting to bed at a decent hour, I saw what a huge impact it had on my family, particularly my children.  They became the brunt of my irritable behavior and tired body.  I found myself yelling at them more often.  It was really a sad discovery to see the negative impact my sleep choices had on my mood and, as collateral damage, my family.

So, I’m reminding myself again, and perhaps others that may need to hear it, that an appropriate amount of sleep and regularity in your sleep pattern is crucial to your body, your mental health, and those you come in contact with.  Trying to skip on sleep to accomplish one more thing, or watch one more show, or check Facebook one more time will eventually catch up with you and the results aren’t pretty.

I love how Jeffrey R. Holland, an American educator and religious leader, put it in a recent address: “…watch for the stress indicators in yourself and in others you may be able to help. As with your automobile, be alert to rising temperatures, excessive speed, or a tank low on fuel…Fatigue is the common enemy of us all—so slow down, rest up, replenish, and refill. Physicians promise us that if we do not take time to be well, we most assuredly will take time later on to be ill.”

So, I’m going to recommit myself to improving my aerobic exercise, my eating practices, and my sleep hygiene.  Who knows?  I may just make it to the next chapter before the end of the year?  Of course, to do so, I need to wrap this post up and bid you all goodnight.

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Two Makes It True

I’m a firm believer in the “two makes it true” philosophy.  If I hear something from two separate sources, then I imagine it is most likely true.  I’m also a firm believer in finding out the truth for myself.  As a result, I hold on to the “two makes it true” information until I find out otherwise.  This thought process has helped me a lot in life.  The one bit of information that it becomes cloudy on is whether or not Santa is real.  Multiple sources, mostly under the age of 5, have informed me that Santa is real.  Further personal experiences has told me otherwise.  Perhaps that’s why I do not believe in the physical presence of Santa, but the spirit of Santa still lives on in my heart.  Alas, I digress.

This “two makes it true” philosophy came to the forefront of my mind as I was reading the book
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.  I apologize in advance for the many times I will likely reference this book in future posts.  It’s not that it offered earth-shattering ideas, but that it reiterated a lot of concepts I learned in my years of attending therapy.  As I was reading it, I realized how the book was the second source confirming the principles I had learned through difficult and eye-opening therapy sessions.  This book is the “two” that made those therapy concepts “true.”

But better than that, I marveled at how this time I had first put to practice the information I learned in those therapy sessions.  My practice of those principles and the positive results were truly the “two that makes it true.”  So, really this book was the “three.”  Reading this book was the confirmation that those, often painful, therapy sessions really were beneficial to my growth and I’ve now come farther than I realized.  What joy it brought my heart to know that I’m learning and growing.  That change for the better is possible.  Certainly, I have a long way to go.  Don’t we all?

I saw three separate therapists before finding the one that helped change my path.  When I made the call to that fourth therapist, I expressed to her my concern about not finding success with past therapists.  Her response was, “I won’t be able to help you either if you’re not ready to be helped.”  While I still believe her to have been the best therapist out of my experiences, she was right in her response.  Previously, I wasn’t ready to be helped.  I wanted a quick fix.  I wanted the therapists to just take the pain away.  I didn’t really want to have to work at it.  I hadn’t quite grasped before that to truly be healed, it involved re-opening the wounds and cleaning them out.

I am fully aware that there are many out there that live much more secure lives when it comes to their self-worth.  I too have a greater understanding of my self-worth at this point in my life.  I’m learning that I am worth loving just as I am.  But that wasn’t always the case.  I didn’t even realize how far I had come from the woman I was 6 years ago until I was reading The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.

I think today, more than anything, I wanted to share that it’s not too late to do the uncomfortable for the hope of a brighter tomorrow.  Maybe set aside some time today to consider ways in which you might be holding yourself back or, worse, being unnecessarily hard on yourself.  The path to bettering ourselves is not an easy one.  We have to look at the ugly and make sense of it before we can move beyond it.  Maybe that means attending therapy for some, meditating for others, or reading an inspirational book.  But I am happy to report that working through the pain can result in something beautiful.  It’s similar to that magical feeling of believing in the spirit of Santa.  It feels light-hearted and hopeful.

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