Just Do It … Who Cares?

Over the past few weeks, I have been talking with a lot of people about this idea of following your heart, doing what you want… despite how you think that other people may perceive it: singing karaoke, wearing a certain style, jumping in mud puddles, or becoming a stand up comic, to name a few!

Saturday I went to the park and borrowed the bicycle of one of my young friends… It looked like this:

Needless to say, I got a lot of laughs and I was having a blast! Let’s think about what stops us from doing some of the things that our childish side urges us to do. Fear? Fear someone will laugh? Fear someone will judge? Fear you will be terrible at the thing and thus be viewed as a failure?

When we boil it down, it’s fear. At it’s root – it is fear. Now, let’s consider how that fear is impacted when you are alone and no one is watching. I bet most of you sing at the top of your lungs when you’re alone. Perhaps, those same people wouldn’t be caught dead singing at karaoke. I bet most of you have had the urge to go play in the rain, but have subverted it… “what if someone sees?” How is it that we can be comfortable doing things alone but as soon as someone may be watching we are afraid?

Rocking it out to Chumbawamba at Jeff’s Bucket Shop (Charlotte)

It boils down to how we believe other people will think of us. And that my friends is due to not loving yourself enough to play like you are loved!

The first, second and third time I did karaoke I was petrified. Let’s get something straight: I am a terrible singer! I do a lot of things well, but singing is not one of them. But, I LOVE IT!! So, eventually, I just said, screw it! I’m going to do it. And eventually, I had a great time. Now, I don’t care at all! I’ll sing pretty much anything.

Kiss a Dragon!

I’ve had people approach me after singing karaoke (multiple times) and tell me that my being up there helped them to find courage to get up there themselves.

I suppose they are thinking, “Well she did it and didn’t die, maybe I can try.” Maybe it’s “wow, they clapped for that? I’m not nearly that bad!” Whatever it is, that’s what it really takes: just a little bit of courage. Okay… maybe a whole lot of courage. But each time you do the thing, you get a little braver!

Pose however you want to!
Dancing the Macarena

So, take a chance! Sing the song! Play in the rain! Do an open mic night! Kiss a dragon! Pose however you freaking want to! Dance the Macarena with some waiter named John!! Have the courage to listen to that little voice inside that says “do it!” And in doing so, you will also be loving yourself. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter what they thought about you — it matters what you thought about yourself. *MIC DROP*

Self-Esteem Boosting Affirmations

I’m sure you’ve heard all the hype about affirmations — positive statements about yourself or the future that can change your life. Some people believe affirmations are nothing more than a load of BS… but there is research out there that would suggest otherwise.

Recently, I was listening to a report on NPR about a study that was conducted regarding the power of the mind in the production of hormones that were not naturally present in the body. Essentially, the people who had the hormone present were told they didn’t have it and the people who didn’t have the hormone were told they did. What happened was that their bodies responded to this new information in their minds and the mere belief that the hormone was present resulted in changes in their physiology!! The people who previously had the hormone and were told they didn’t have it, stopped producing it! And vice versa! So, the belief that this hormone was present or not present resulted in changes in their body that mirrored what they perceived in their minds!

In short, what you tell yourself matters on so many levels. Emotionally and biologically! Why not give affirmations a shot?

Where do I start?

If you’re new to this, or your new to the self-esteem affirmations you may need some guidance. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, let’s start by picking one or two things you like about yourself and write them down. We will focus on present beliefs and the development of future beliefs about yourself. Answer these questions and write the answers down:

  1. What physical attributes do I like/love about myself?
  2. What personality characteristics do I have that I like?
  3. What compliments have other people given me? (Often times, people see more positive things in us than we are willing to acknowledge in ourselves. If you are complimented often about your eyes, or your hair or your kind spirit, these people are on to something.)

Future-Oriented Affirmations

Now that you’ve got down the current things you can acknowledge, it is important to focus on the future. By talking about what you would like to feel about yourself in the future as if it is already happening, you can strengthen those beliefs. For example, one of my future-oriented affirmations is “I am enough.” My brain likes to throw up this old belief that I am somehow not good enough, smart enough, successful enough… blah blah blah. So by telling myself in the present “I AM ENOUGH” I learn to believe it. When those other thoughts pop up, I can fight back with “I AM ENOUGH!!” Ask yourself these questions and write the answers down:

  1. What physical attributes about myself would I like to feel good about?
  2. What characteristics would I like to develop?
  3. What would I like to believe about myself?

Excellent job!! Now that you’ve got all those written down, simply put “I AM” in front of each of them. Bam! Self-esteem affirmations! It’s hard. I know. But tell those things to yourself every day and you will begin to see the truth. That you are beautiful. That you are strong. That you are enough!

If you need some additional help, here are some great examples from Affirm Your Life — my favorite spot for affirmations on the web:

By loving myself, I allow others to love me as well.

Every day I appreciate myself more and more.

Feeling appreciated is one of the top priorities in my life, and I practice this feeling every day.

I accept myself for who I truly am, and give myself permission to grow beyond this.

I acknowledge all I have accomplished and am proud of my achievements.

I am a beautiful person.

I am a good person just as I am.

I am a magnificent, radiant being.

If you like those, it’s just the beginning. There are thousands of affirmations about so many topics! Go check out more affirmations from Affirm Your Life! They even have an app!

Learning to Love Yourself

Learning to love yourself is not an easy thing to do. It may be one of the tougher things, if not the toughest, you do in your whole life. We put ourselves at the bottom of the list almost every time. When things are piling up, we sacrifice so others don’t have to go without — we eat poorly, we stay up too late, we run ourselves ragged — and this seems to be a reflection of how we feel about ourselves as compared to how we feel about others around us.

Last night, in sharing some wisdom with my beautiful niece, I recalled the first moment (after my self-esteem tanked in middle school) that I realized that maybe I was not 100% disgusting/ugly/fat/bound to be rejected for the rest of my life. It was 10th grade. But first, let me give you some context.

7 year old me

I grew up with teeth that I inherited directly from my father.

I’d call them quite “gappy” and on top of it all, I sucked my middle two fingers until I was 12 or something absurd like that…

11 year old me

So, I had a gap. I was very sensitive about this gap and I don’t know why. I can’t actually recall anyone making fun of it. But many of the pictures I looked through show me with a closed mouth smile — even today that’s my go to smile. Anyway… I digress. By the time my 12 year molars started coming in, the gap started closing – as you can see in the 2nd picture. But in my mind my teeth were still a train wreck, until that day in the 10th grade.

I was sitting in geography class beside this guy who I thought was super hot. He had braces and said something about how much he hated them. I made a comment that he was lucky to have them (because my mom could never have afforded braces for me) and that I wished I had braces. He looked shocked and said back to me “your teeth are perfect!”

Then I was the one who was shocked. You mean to tell me that other people can look at me and see something pleasant or perfect even? Even if it’s just my teeth… That’s somewhere I could start. So I began gently, by finding what I liked about myself. It’s hard. It’s almost excruciating to sit down and make a list of what you love about yourself. But do it anyway. I started with the fact that I liked my cute little nose and my pretty feet. Then I grew to find qualities about myself that I liked — I am kind, I am funny, I am loving.

As I acknowledged these things about myself, it became easier and easier to find other things about myself that I liked. Eventually, I began to believe my whole face was pretty. Not just my teeth and my nose. Recently, I have been able to feel like my entire body is beautiful (thanks to the others in the body positive movement).

Last night, I told my niece I loved her out loud. Then I told my mom. Then I told myself. Out loud. So other people could hear… that I loved me. It was a little funny but super important. And powerful. And it felt really good!!! Have you ever said that to yourself? “[Your name here], I love you!” Try it.

It’s not an easy process. It’s a long process. It’s been 23 years since the 10th grade… wow. But I’m here. And I love me. And if I can get here, so can you! Start with a list of just few things you like about yourself. Maybe you’ll struggle to find even one… but find it. Then look in the mirror everyday and acknowledge that you like it. Then listen to the people that love you and acknowledge in yourself what they acknowledge in you. Start praising those parts of yourself too. Eventually, you will start seeing more of what you love about you than what you don’t love about you. And eventually, you will start treating yourself as if you actually love yourself like you love those around you.

Give a Compliment, Take a Compliment

I stopped in a local restaurant a few weeks ago to pick up some take out (I was craving pineapple rice) and while I was making my selection, the hostess, who couldn’t have been more than 17 or 18 years old, just came right out and gave me the best compliment. She said “You’re so pretty.” I was taken off guard at first, but then I smiled and accepted her compliment by responding “Thank you. You’re so sweet for saying that.”

After that, I didn’t see her again. She just disappeared. And I got to thinking maybe she was embarrassed for saying that to me. Then I realized how long it actually took me in my life to be able to take a compliment graciously. Let me explain.

Have you been complimented by someone only to dismiss the compliment? I bet you have.

“You look super cute in that hat.”

“Oh, thank you. I’m having a bad hair day.”

Or what about this one: “I love your dress!”

“Oh, thanks. I got it on sale.”

It’s like we just can’t say thank you. We have to explain away why we look cute or why we are wearing this brand or that brand. As if it is somehow a prideful or egocentric thing to just say thank you to someone who is giving you a compliment. It is not! I heard a talk once about being a gracious receiver of gifts and I believe the message is similar.

If someone has gone out of their way to get you something, no matter how small, receive the gift with grace and a “thank you.” When you tell them “oh, you shouldn’t have” or “you didn’t have to do that” or “I can’t accept this” you are judging their chosen way to show their appreciation to you. They could have given you a hug or just said “Thanks,” but they chose gift giving and you should be ready to accept it. Making those kinds of comments, though well-meaning, can bite back.

Compliments are the same. If someone is making themselves vulnerable enough to give you a compliment, accept it graciously. Do not attempt to explain it away or minimize what they are saying in an effort to keep them from somehow feeling bad about themselves. Accept it and be grateful. Part of the reason this is so hard is because we are not complimentary of ourselves, so we cannot see how someone else could be.

What I want to challenge you with today is to go out and give compliments to others. Don’t just go out and compliment people all willy-nilly, but if you see some shoes you like, or an outfit you like, or a beautiful person, or a hairstyle — TELL THE PERSON!

Then give yourself one compliment every day. It can be something small but compliment something you’ve done or how you look or one of your wonderful characteristics. And then when someone else compliments you, just say “thank you.”

How Did I Get Here?

Have you ever been sitting there thinking those words: How did I get here? It could be about a variety of things in life, but if you’re human, I’jm willing to bet you have in fact thought those very words. What I want you to think about right now is how did you get to the place where you don’t love yourself, or maybe even like yourself? How did that happen? What I know for sure is that you didn’t start out as a little human not loving yourself. You were TAUGHT to not love yourself. Sit with that a minute and think back to the messages you have received through the years.

“You can’t do that.”

“That doesn’t look good on you.”

“That’s not good enough.”

“You’re too heavy/tall/thin/short/fat.”

“Did you even try?”

“That’s a crazy idea.”

The message comes in many forms. Sometimes it is obvious that it is a critical message. Other times it is more subtle. I like to think of us as having been contaminated by these critical messages through the years. Perhaps our natural state is to love ourselves and others and we are taught to hate others and ourselves through our interactions with others.

Think about this: Have you ever been watching a 2 year old play? It’s a lot of “look at me!” “Watch this!” “I’m super fast!” That seems to be the natural state of humans. A state where they think themselves to be amazing and love themselves for all of that amazing-ness. But then it starts to happen. Sometimes it happens in your own home. Sometimes it is not until you start school — but you start to become contaminated. People begin rejecting you. Judging you. Criticizing you. And all of a sudden you begin to question if you’re good or not… Maybe they are right. Maybe they know something you don’t know…

It starts off slowly and it just compounds on top of itself from there. In writing this, I had to think back to the first time I remember getting messages from peers about not being good enough or similar enough to everyone else that caused my peers to direct critical comments toward me. As I can remember, it wasn’t until the 5th grade (after I had gained weight over the summer) that people began calling me “fat.” That continued into middle school and seemed to tame down a bit by high school — mind you, looking back, I can see that I was not fat. But, maybe they knew something I didn’t know. Maybe they were right. Maybe I was supposed to look like those super thin friends of mine. That’s when the questioning starts. Then it is compounded by messages from the media and society. Eventually, we start saying mean, awful things to ourselves. And what’s worse is we BELIEVE those things.

“I’m fat.”

“I’m ugly.”

“My breasts/teeth/feet are the wrong size.”

“I’m not good enough.”

“No one will ever love me.”

“I’m not worthy of love/acceptance/friendship/kindness.”

Ugh! I hate even typing those things now! You see, I used to believe those things. I used to think that I was the ugliest and grossest person on the planet. That no one would love me and I was bound to die alone in a box down by the river. I feared rejection and judgment. I feared being vulnerable because I felt so vulnerable all the time anyway. And it wasn’t until I started talking to myself differently that I started feeling differently and acting differently. I started focusing on the people in my life that were supportive and uplifting. I started listening to the people who said they loved me and showed me they loved me in their own unique ways.

Then I started telling myself what I loved about myself. It started out small. “I like my cute little nose and my pretty feet.” Then it grew into believing that my face was beautiful. Then it progressed into realizing that I don’t have to look like everyone else for people to find my body beautiful. I embraced my curves & my bulges (that’s the harder part, by the way… there are still some of those that I don’t like so much — but I’m working on it). And each day I look in the mirror and tell myself at least one thing I like about myself. Over the years, those messages people gave me in 5th grade and throughout middle school have quietened & I can hear my natural state again. The state that loves everything about itself. The state that says STAND UP AND DO SOMETHING. The state that knows its own power and worth. That state is present in you, too. Let’s find it! And don’t let anything “dim that light that shines from within!”