The Elusive Essential

August 22, 2008 at 12:14 am 5 comments

The Elusive Essential – by Lauren Kennedy –

It’s a new morning.

The alarm goes off and we lurch into consciousness. Outside our window the birds are chirping, proudly announcing their presence to the world.

What do you do? Do you hit the snooze and pull the covers over your head secretly dreading the day stretching ahead, anxiously planning ways to avoid criticism, rejection, shame and emptiness? Or do you determinedly get to your feet, check your schedule for the day and focus your thoughts to insure that your actions will be efficient, effective, on task, on target, resulting in excellence and success?

The second person is searching for that essential sense of peace and fulfillment  that the first individual has given up on ever finding.

We all want to be happy, to feel confident and capable. We all need to feel important, secure and useful in our close relationships. Without these qualities pain becomes suffering and joy is shallow at best, non-existent at worst. Self esteem is the foundation on which a fulfilling life is built. Without it joy, security,  and freedom are fleeting, dependent on the next achievement, the next word of praise, the next demonstration of importance. And even then, there is a vague sense of unease, emptiness, a sense of “is that all there is”. But we shake it off, and look for the next thing that will temporarily mask the discomfort that we feel.

Some of us, in an effort to eliminate that sense of unease, strive for external signs of success, in the form of career, income and respect. Others choose to dedicate their lives to the compulsive service of others or to one  humanitarian cause after another. Still others resort to various addictions – food, substance abuse, perfectionism, workaholic, fixing others, people pleasing, thrill seeking or rebellion. The list is extensive.

Self esteem is without a doubt the quality that can mean the difference between a life of joy and fulfillment and a life of despair, resignation  and tragedy. This quality, more than any other, determines the level of satisfaction, personal growth and positive influence that an individual creates and experiences in their life. There are three main aspects to self esteem: self efficacy, self respect, and self worth. Most techniques for improving Self esteem focus on self confidence and self respect.

Self Confidence is the conviction that one is skilled or proficient in specific endeavors.  Whereas self efficacy has more to do with an overall sense of self reliance  in coping with one’s life and one’s affairs. In general self esteem techniques focus on improving your self confidence through education, skill building,  communication skills, and  goal achievement.

Self respect is not about status or appearance. The basic ingredients for self respect are : Establishing your personal values and principles,  making choices and behaving in ways that are congruent with those values and principles, and affording others respect and understanding. However,  we must remember that it’s isn’t  the appearance of living according to our values and principles that is of importance. We must also examine our motives and true intentions. Hidden agendas that violate our principles, however well disguised, will erode our self respect on some level.

Unfortunately, even a person who has self confidence  in their social skills and business prowess, can lack an over all sense of self efficacy. Similarly, a person who lives according to their values and principles can lack a sense of self respect. And the reason is that they still do not possess self worth.

Self worth is very elusive and cannot be gained by achievements, perfect behavior, self sacrifice, altruism or skill building. If a person has worked on confidence in manyareas of their life and is scrupulous in maintaining their values and principles, they may manage to achieve a level of social acceptance and business success, but the internal discomfort and sense of inadequacy persists to a greater or lesser extent.

Some of the symptoms are a person with low self worth may experience are:  a sense that there is something inherently wrong with them, criticism, constructive or other wise  produce  immense shame and guilt, putting others’ expectations above their own,  and a variety of boundary issues.

In extreme cases the person feels that they must earn the right to be alive.   They may try to be invisible, so as not to make waves or take up space on one hand, but long for recognition on the other.
They judge themselves harshly and make excuses for other’s inappropriate behavior toward them. Sometime they don’t even realize that the behavior was inappropriate. They feel guilty when good things come into their lives because they aren’t certain that they have done enough to deserve them. They feel compelled to be constantly productive so they aren’t a burden. They can’t experience the joy of living and have a sense that nothing they do is good enough. They are filled with self doubt. And the harder they try to achieve a sense of worth, the more it seems to elude them.

You can’t identify them by appearance. They make certain to put on a happy face. They don’t feel they have the right to bother anyone with their despair and they can’t see a solution in sight.

Does a solution exist? Yes, but it doesn’t involve education, skills, achievements, selflessness or improved behavior. It doesn’t really involve “doing” as much as it involves “being” a different way. It does require insight, change, motivation and  courage.

Although affirmations and positive self talk are helpful, they are not enough for most. I know that they weren’t enough for me. Even when I finally cultivated the belief that I was important, I didn’t feel that way. I felt responsible for everyone else’s feelings and happiness but neglected my own. I dared not refuse a request because I did not want to feel selfish. If I did something well, I was terrified that I couldn’t do it that well again. Even compliments were uncomfortable because I wasn’t certain that I could live up to them. I denied my anger,  because I didn’t have the right, my fear, because it was weak  and my pain because it would distress others.

So I worked out my own methods for healing the quaking insecurity I felt inside.

The first step is simply acting as if you are worthy, acting like you count. You do this by  establishing  personal boundaries and sticking to them.   It is often difficult to establish healthy boundaries when you lack a sense of self worth. You will invariably feel that you are being selfish or that you don’t have the right to refuse another person or ask for what you need or express how you feel. A technique that I found that works very well is to think of someone that you love. Then think of the boundaries that you would recommend to them. I would think of my daughter. When I considered what I would tell her to do if she was in my situation, the answer became very obvious. It was also very different from what I had previously thought I should do.  Now, adopt those boundaries for your own. This means you must not let your feelings of guilt determine your behavior. It will feel very uncomfortable at first. Even if others try to tell you that you are being selfish, do not give in.

For awhile, every time you must make a decision involving your interaction with others, imagine you are advising someone that you love that is in the same situation. Then do what you would have advised them to do. Don’t give in to the temptation to tell yourself things like, it really isn’t that important, as an excuse to give in. Or I can handle the disappointment, as an excuse to deny your feelings and desires in order to placate others. Don’t give in to self-doubt, other’s criticism or guilt. After some practice, you will start feeling more comfortable with your new boundaries. You will start to feel that you deserve respect.

I have also found that recounting the situation to someone else, helps to put it into focus. While it was in my head, I was certain that I was expecting too much from others or I wasn’t giving enough. Once I described  the situation out loud to an objective listener, I realized that I was allowing others to treat me like a doormat. The distinction between taking care of myself and being true to myself versus being self-centered became clearer.

The bottom line is this: As long as I keep acting like I don’t count, that is how I am going to feel.

The next step is to express your feelings. Not your opinion necessarily. Your feelings are uniquely yours. You must be willing to express who you are or in a very real sense, you do not exist. Sometimes our feelings may cause others some discomfort. That is not a reason to reframe from expressing yourself. If you do, you are once again saying, by your actions, that you do not count. Say how you feel, without blaming, justifying, or apologizing. Do not make another responsible for your feelings. For better or worse, our feelings are the result of our life experience, beliefs and perceptions. We cannot identify the parts of ourselves that need to grow without honoring our feelings and what they tell us. And we cannot have an emotionally intimate relationship with another without the freedom to express ourselves fully.

Next you must identify your dreams or goals. Initially, do not concern yourself with whether or not they are practical. Especially do not reject a goal based on disapproval of another. Later, you can start  to prune your list, but initially, put down all your dreams, goals and desires. Once you are feeling some benefits from the previous steps, you can begin to trim your list based on your situation, your values, and your needs. You can seek suggestions from others who may have experience in similar situations. But do not eliminate anything on the basis of another’s approval. Your personal values will be the guidelines for determining if a goal causes to much upheaval for you partner or children. It may take some time to narrow the list down.  Just make certain that you based your decisions on your values and needs.  Do not entertain the inner debate on whether or not you deserve it. And do not let the hypothesis about how it will affect others have a major influence. Remember also that even if something appears impractical at first, creative thinking can nearly always find a workable solution.

Practice being present and aware in the moment. This requires learning to experience ourselves and our environment rather than always thinking about our circumstances and our performance. To test your level of awareness, just chose a doorway in your home and remember to make a mental note each time you go through it. You will probably be amazed at the very few times you actually notice passing through the door at the time.
Most importantly, find a spiritual practice. In this context, spiritual practice simply means, anything that silences the mental noise and connects you to you inner innate essence. It may be  mediation, communing with nature, a creative endeavor that flows from your center or listening to music that stirs you inside. Learn to recognize and experience that sense of expansiveness, excitement, desire and support deep inside. That is your Essence. That is where your power, your wisdom, your sense of wonder and sense of greatness reside. The more you can connect to that part of you, and then live life from that place of being, the less you will even consider the question of worth. You will realize that your existence here is proof of your worth and the special part you have to play in creation.

You exist to experience life and to express who you are. As you evolve from those experiences, you continue to express the greater you that you are becoming. Practice maintaining your conscious connection to that source of comfort and support inside. Your Essence is the Authentic you behind the defensives, self defeating beliefs, expectations and masks. Let it guide and support you. No one else can give the world the unique qualities that you have to offer. Strip off the layers of false beliefs, self doubt, guilt, conformity and judgment. Let the light of your Essence shine and experience life with enthusiasm. Spontaneously express the true you behind the masks. Tell the critic in your head to take a vacation. Life and the Universe desires each of us to Yes! I am here and this is who I am. Live the dreams of your Soul.
One glorious morning, you will wake up just as the birds do, singing with enthusiasm and proudly announcing to the world,

“Here I am!” “I am magnificent.”

That is how you will enthusiastically greet each wondrous day.   And that is the sweetest gift of all.

Tip: If you do suffer from lack of self worth, this article is meant to give you hope. It is not the total Program.  If you would like more information, please contact me by email or phone.


Entry filed under: Self Esteem. Tags: , , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Paul  |  August 22, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    What a great post. You’ve obviously done a lot of research into issues surrounding self worth / self esteem. I was intrigued by your experience with affirmations. For me they do work.

    How did you use them? How did you apply them? How did you create them? How long did you use them for? I’m very careful with my affirmations. I’ve been using them continuously for a couple of years and I’ve found them to be very effective. Mind you, I’ve been using them in combination with brainwave entrainment so this may be a crucial factor.

    Any way you slice it self worth and self esteem are traits that we all need. -cheers-

  • 2. Motivation and Mindset - Your New Products Monthly  |  August 23, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    […] a very in depth article your should check out the elusive essential which is an exploration of the above but with sove inter-related topics on the […]

  • 3. Motivation and Mindset | New Products Monthly  |  August 25, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    […] a very in depth article your should check out the elusive essential which is an exploration of the above but with sove inter-related topics on the […]

  • 4. Tanveer  |  August 30, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    SMS Text Greetings – A collection of words that express your feelings to the people you love!

  • 5. laurenpkennedy  |  September 26, 2008 at 4:45 am

    Hi Paul,
    Thanks for your comment. I am not suggesting that affirmations are not beneficial. Certainly, how you talk to yourself and think about yourself have a powerful influence.

    My point is this: Affirmations can be helpful in changing how one thinks, which is very important. However, even if it changes how one thinks (ie – I am important.), for people with very low self worth, it will not change how they feel.

    The affirmations helped me realized that I was important. And I began to belief that I was indeed important. But I still did not Feel important, a very important distinction.



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