It's time to start treating ourselves better

A rebellion of self-worth

If not now, then when? When is enough, enough?

In our culture, many people abide in the “trance of unworthiness” I wrote briefly about last week. What more must be perfected, learned, changed, honed and improved upon for us to like and accept ourselves, just as we are?

It’s curious how easily we accept the perfection of babies as they grow and learn. While knowing they’ll continue to change and evolve, we see them as perfect for the stage they’re at. Then, something changes. I don’t know when it happens.

Growing into the teen and adult years, that voice of self-doubt and dislike often surfaces. Self-judgment, self-deprecation and a feeling that we are lacking is common. Self-criticism overshadows self-encouragement as the internal voices become harsher.

Whether it is our physical attributes, such as our weight, hair or wrinkles, personality quirks or our intelligence, the over-whelming tendency is self-criticism and feeling we just don’t measure-up. Akin to being at war with ourselves, despite trying our best, those internal voices of never measuring-up hold court in our minds. If we knew people in our lives who were as rude and unkind to us as our internal voices, we’d never befriend them.

We deflect compliments, put ourselves down and are prone to continue striving for some elusive destination of feeling enough, like some carrot we dangle in-front of ourselves.

We’ve come to believe it’s arrogant and lacking humility to like ourselves just as we are. We may believe we’ll stay stuck if we accept ourselves as we are. This is not true.

In my life’s work, I feel blessed to journey with people during their end-days and talk about things that really matter. We talk about their lives, their accomplishments and failures, their successes, mistakes, regrets and satisfactions, and consider the legacy of their lives.

I’m drawn to ask them as they see their time on earth ending, whether they can look back over their lives—the good and the challenging, the successes and failures— and consider whether it was a life well-lived.

Even on our death-beds, many people are still caught in this trance and it’s tragic when people are unable to consider their life well-lived. Most people live good lives, endeavouring to lend goodness to life and make a positive difference in this world. But focussed on mistakes and failures and dreams never realized, they’re unable to acknowledge the good

Yes, each of us has regrets and instances where we wish for a do-over. But often those regrets and mistakes do not overshadow or outweigh the goodness that’s left in the wake of our living.

We’ve taken humility too far, and it’s costing us our happiness and ability to recognize the good we’ve created. It’s also interesting how we can easily see the good created in other people’s lives but fail to see it for our own.

I ask all to reconsider and start to take a kinder stance toward themselves. To be more forgiving of ourselves when we’ve tried and failed and consider we thrive and grow best in safe and caring environments, even internal ones.

A recent meme seems to capture it all, “In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.”

Please join the rebellion.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


The busy beast that hungers within us

'The cult of busy'

Engaging the “cult of busy” comes at great cost.

While it’s become trendy to overextend ourselves—seeking happiness and our sense of value in the achievements of all we can accomplish—cramming our to-do list with demands, robs us of the experience of life and the joy of living.

As a young woman, I believed my worth and value rested on the many things I accomplished, yet that sense of being enough was never satisfied. It was like a hungry monster, increasingly demanding more of me. The monster was never satiated, and I never felt it was enough.

The belief of “learn more, try harder, stay busy, and maybe I’ll be happy” left me feeling flawed and separate from life. I felt spit out at the end of each day.

Psychologist Tara Brach calls it “the trance of unworthiness.”

“Both our upbringing and our culture provide the immediate breeding ground for this contemporary epidemic of feeling deficient and unworthy,” says Brach.

I’d hoped to find that sense of being good enough through all the things I did, the accomplishments I achieved and the accolades I received. None of it was enough, and the internal sense of discomfort and feelings of lack created anxiety and emotional distress. I felt desperate and wondered when I’d feel like I was enough, when I’d be happy.

Feeling unhappy despite having everything I could ask for left me feeling ungrateful and guilty. What was wrong with me? Couldn’t I just be happy?

Like many, I was conditioned to try to avoid uncomfortable emotions by getting busier to distract myself. The veneer of perfectionism and over-achieving I’d created to try and protect myself and feel safe cracked under the pressure. It was a never-ending cycle of suffering and what was important in life seemed to pass me by.

The “cult of busy” is all too common today. Through supporting others I’ve learned I’m not alone. The good news, and the challenging news, are that gaining self-worth and happiness is an inside job.

As strange as it sounds, I bless, and am grateful for, the experience of burn-out that’s led me out of a life lived in reaction to stress, over-load and anxiety. It caused me to question false-beliefs and returned me to the source of my suffering, which was my own mind and habits of life.

While I wished someone else could awaken me from the trance of unworthiness and soothe my mental and emotional torment, I found this wasn’t true. There was no white-knight who was going to come charging in to save me and make right my world.

While loving family and friends were helpful, I learned that finding my self-worth and changing my internal climate was something only I alone could do.

If we find ourselves struggling, it’s important we know we’re not alone. It saddens me how many people wonder what’s wrong with them, why they aren’t happy, despite having accomplished the many things they’d been told would bring happiness.

I’ve learned to call it a “seek and don’t find world”, the belief we’ll be happy when we reach some illusory goal or achievement when we have the perfect partner, home or job. It isn’t true. While we may feel OK for a while, those old feelings tend to resurface all too soon.

While not a panacea, engaging in mindfulness practices helped me to gain distance from the self-critical rhetoric that coursed through my mind. In observing my thoughts, I began to question whether my operating-system of staying busy to find my value and avoid painful feelings was valid. I learned it was not.

When the “cult of busy” calls and I notice feelings of stress, or that old sense of “not-enoughness” surfacing, I’ve found the most powerful question I can ask myself is, “What do I need right now?”

Instead of trying to push those feelings down, turning to myself like a compassionate friend to see what I truly need has been so helpful. Just pausing and asking the question causes an internal shift. As I distance myself from that internal chatter, I find the answers to what I truly need surface, and I follow the inner wisdom that responds.

I’ve shared this simple exercise with many who have found it more helpful than getting busy ever did.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

When life gets you down, it's smart to have ways to lift yourself up

Fielding life's curve balls

Sometimes life feels hard.

Between personal challenges, worries, the headlines and life’s demands, it can feel heavy and stressful. The stress-response impacts our brain’s ability to make good decisions, problem-solve and accurately perceive what’s happening and how to respond instead of react. We can feel like life’s victim when we’re living in reaction, being pulled forth from situation to situation.

When life throws us a curve-ball and we find ourselves struggling, having planned strategies in place to support ourselves is empowering. Instead of getting dragged, unwittingly, down the rabbit-hole, using strategies to calm our nervous system allows us to re-set and come back to our centre.

Over the years, I’ve assembled a diverse tool-box of practices that have served well in moving me from feeling like life’s victim to empowerment. It’s not one-size-fits-all when it comes to what we might need to support us, so having diverse self-help strategies in place is wise.

I’ve assembled a wide-range of practices and I’m constantly adding new ways as science is revealing the wisdom and benefit behind them. Beyond just knowing something just feels good, I like understanding why, or the science of why they’re helpful.

While mindfulness practices are key in my self-help toolbox, I’ve also found music to be an ever-available source of support. Whether we’re singing or listening to music, our brains and bodies are wired to respond. Music can transport us from sadness to feeling more hopeful and uplifted, and it has the ability to inspire, soothe and invigorate us, supporting our mental well-being.

Listening to music causes release of the feel-good hormone dopamine, it increases our cognitive function and reduces feelings of anxiety, stress and depression. Listening to tunes activates the emotional centres of our brains, as well as the motor cortex, responsible for movement.

Choosing our music wisely is key. Intentionally using music geared to the felt-state we want to embody is helpful. Listening to fast-paced music when we need an energy boost, relaxing melodies when we need to calm, or inspiring music when we want to feel uplifted.

Conversely, listening to sad or anger-filled music increases the release of stress hormones and stimulates negative emotions, remembering our bodies don’t know the difference between what’s real and imagined.

Experts report physical and psychological stress are reduced when listening to uplifting or soothing music as levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are lowered while beneficial serotonin and dopamine levels are enhanced. Dopamine is associated with feelings of pleasure and happiness, it supports communication between our body’s cells, enhances our ability to focus, plan and think more clearly.

The science of music therapy is being used to help mothers experiencing postpartum depression as they’re encouraged to sing to their babies, and many of us have watched videos of music’s ability to reach into the brains of dementia patients, seeming to unlock them, returning them to life.

I always have music at the ready. When I feel myself getting pulled down by life, I have a whole arsenal of music that helps pull me back up, hit the reset button, be better able to think and be who I choose to be in this world.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Time to do a little mental gardening

The garden of our mind

Fall clean-up is well underway and what’s true of the outer world is also true for our inner landscape.

With clearing gardens and planting new bulbs for next year underway, I’m drawn to consider my inner garden, the garden of my mind. Gardeners know clearing away the old and planting bulbs of new potential is key and so it is too with the garden of our minds.

With all that’s going on in the world, it’s easy to get sucked down the rabbit-hole of negativity and get stuck there, casting darkness upon our lives. So many weed thoughts, full of toxicity and prickly thorns, can take over if left unchecked.

Through the mind-body connection, our minds and their prevailing tendencies of thought have a direct bearing on our health and happiness, and how we’re able to contribute to life.

We don’t have to think long or hard to recognize the effects our thoughts have on how we feel and how we experience life.

One negative thought can move us from happy to sad, or peaceful to angry, in a moment. One happy thought can up our vibe and lift our spirits in a jiffy.

The content of my mind used to be a horror-show full of fears, dim forecasts for the future, negative self-talk, and bitchy conversations. I resonated with Anne Lamott when she wrote, “my mind is a bad neighbourhood that I try not to go into alone.”

Freedom for me came when I learned not to believe everything I think, and not take my thoughts so personally. I admit to a time when I believed my thoughts were truth, when in reality many of them were just old, well-used neuropathways from the past, often borrowed from other people.

I felt powerless over my own mind, until I learned that just because I’ve thought a thought, doesn’t mean it’s true. Becoming conscious and aware of our tendencies of thought, without judgment, is a powerful practice. The part about noticing our thoughts without judgment is important.

Mindfulness was key in learning to stand back and become aware of my tendencies of mind, recognizing l had thoughts, but I was not my thoughts. I could then observe them, without getting pulled down the rabbit-hole of thinking, thinking, thinking. My mind became a friendlier place, less over-grown by negativity.

What we focus on increases. We’d never water and fertilize weeds within our garden, yet we so often do this with negative thoughts because they’re stickier. It takes conscious awareness and conscious choice not to abide there.

Choosing to feed uplifting thoughts, and let the gnarly, weed-thoughts wither, changed my perspective on life.

We’re the master of our thoughts; we’re the only ones who can change them. We don’t have to depend on the whims of our thoughts, or the happenings in the world for our happiness. It’s vital we learn to cultivate thoughts and activities that support our health and happiness, and allow us to bring good into the world.

We don’t have to be victim to our thoughts and tendencies of mind. In learning to curiously question our thoughts and weed out those that don’t match who we choose to be in the world, we become empowered. The thoughts we feed and nourish will bear the greatest fruit in our lives, either positive or negative.

This is the perfect time to consciously clear away the old, plant the bulbs of new grown that we want to flower and bear fruit in our lives.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More New Thought articles

About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

An assistant minister at the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, she is a retired nurse with a master’s degree in health science and is a hospice volunteer.  She is also an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan and currently spends her time teaching smartUBC, a unique mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. 

She is a speaker and presenter and from her diverse experience and knowledge, both personally and professionally, she has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people gain a new perspective, awaken and recognize we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts, stress or to life. We are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 44 years and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories