Break the Bondage of Negativity and Set Yourself Free!
I recently attended a networking event where a good friend approached me and told me my arms looked great. She went on to say she needed to work more on hers and that she envied how good I look for my age. (Good friends can say things like that and live to talk about it.) To be honest, my arms are a feature I have always been very self-conscious about. To me, they are huge and flabby, in spite of the fact I work out with weights several times a week. I have never been comfortable wearing sleeveless tops and dresses in public, even though others have told me that’s silly. To receive a compliment on how “good” my arms look came as quite a shock.
Receiving this very unexpected – and in my mind undeserved – compliment stopped me dead in my tracks. It made me wonder if I have other physical and character traits which are admired by others but which I perceive as defects. My guess is that there are many. I am also going to assume you also have many amazing qualities others admire but which you are self-conscious about.
I recently asked my social media followers what traits they are self-conscious about which others admire. The answers I received included:
- My eyes (This precious lady has beautiful eyes which are a very unusual color. She has hyperthyroidism and thinks the way it affected her eyes is hideous. No one else notices.)
- My singing voice (I’ve never heard her sing, but I’m sure she sings like an angel.)
- My self confidence (This dear woman fears others find her abrasive.)
- My writing. (This talented man is such a harsh self-critic he can’t see the beauty in his own words.)
- My legs (This gorgeous woman has scars on her legs from injuries from long ago. The scars don’t bother her and she doesn’t try to hide them, yet people frequently comment on them and ask hurtful questions. For the record, men stop and stare at her legs for all the right reasons when the scars are covered with hosiery.)
- My hair (I’ve yet to meet a woman who hasn’t hated her hair at some point in her life. Reaching the point where we love our natural hair is a true gift.)
The saddest part of this exercise was the responses from people who said they don’t have any qualities that other people admire. I know this to be false, because each of those people has traits I admire very much.
So what can we do about negative self perceptions? Here are tips for changing your perception about yourself:
- Take an honest self-inventory: It’s not prideful to recognize your gifts. You have unique physical gifts, talents and character traits which you cannot fully use to bless others until you recognize them and accept them. Acknowledging your gifts does not mean you’re bragging about them, it merely means you recognize that God has gifted you in special ways. To not use those gifts is to deprive the world of a gift only you can give. Can you imagine how disappointed you would be if you gave someone a gift which they left wrapped and never used? Recognizing your personal gifts unwraps them and allows you to use them. Get busy!
- Ask others to provide input: Again, there is nothing wrong with asking friends, co-workers and family to share the gifts they recognize in you. A beautiful exercise is to get together with a group of friends and spend time allowing each person to share the gifts they recognize in the others. I dare you to do it without crying.
- Stop focusing on the negative: I know you’ve heard this a million times, but you need to stop only acknowledging negatives in your appearance, behavior and speech. To do this takes time and commitment. I challenge you to stop seeing the negative when you look in the mirror and to stop noticing the minor flaws in the work you do. Make a commitment to change your perspective by defeating every negative thought with a positive one. I know this is possible, but I also know it can be difficult. I used to weigh 190 pounds. To be honest, it’s hard for me to not see the “fat chick” when I look in the mirror. With much time and much effort spent changing my negative self-talk, I have reached a point where I see myself more honestly and where I’m generally happy with my appearance. Do I still notice the “soft spots” on my physique? Of course, but I’m learning to love them as much as the muscular parts. Don’t allow your self-talk to steal the joy from your daily life. Change it!
- Stop being a perfectionist: I know no greater bondage than that of expecting one’s behavior, actions, words and appearance to be perfect. Please stop torturing yourself with unrealistic expectations. No one is perfect. No one. Not that woman you see at the gym who has perfect abs and a perfect pedicure. Not the man at the office who appears to never make mistakes. Not the woman in your networking group who’s business earns more than a million in profit each year. No one is perfect. Lighten up!
- Stop comparing yourself to others: This is another form of bondage. You are a unique, beautiful and talented individual. You are here to fulfill a mission which only you can fulfill. Other people have other missions, so comparing yourself to them is absurd. You are gifted and blessed to be you. Don’t expect your gifts to fit anyone else’s mold.
Turning these steps into a habit may take effort, but it is worth it. Have you fallen prey to these traps? How did you change your negative thought patterns and learn to love being you? Please share!
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