In my last post, we talked about creating a narrative that highlights our strengths and using them to our fullest potential. In making this new narrative for ourselves, we are dumping the old narrative that focuses on our flaws. Women that struggle with identifying positive qualities or strengths about themselves feel stuck and lack vision for themselves. Focusing solely on our shortcomings doesn't allow us to see our true potential.
As women, we often aren't encouraged to talk about our strengths or positive qualities. Most of us didn't grow up hearing, "Hey, you are good at (blank), have you ever considered doing (blank). Growing up, what stuck with us all these years are the conversations revolving around our flaws. What we likely grew up hearing is more of a comparison to others and how we aren't good enough, or maybe she's not smart enough for school, you wouldn't be good at (blank), or a real kicker is "you don't need to go to school find a man to support you."As women, we are often taught to downplay strengths. Showing confidence as a woman can sometimes lead to being labeled as arrogant or boastful, which isn't true! There are people, relationships, experiences from our past that have influenced how we see ourselves, and our strengths.
So when you were naming some of your strengths and became uncomfortable, I want you to know that you are not alone. If you struggled with naming your strengths and had to reach out to a friend for help, I want you to know you are not alone. And the best part is you don't have to stay feeling stuck. Changing your narrative gives you permission to push aside negative voices from the past and focus on you. Focus on what you are good at, your goals, the life you want for yourself.
I have this sign that hangs outside my door when I'm in session. I made it myself. Well, I didn't actually make it. I bought the letters and put them on there myself. I love this sign because of how imperfect it is. I was the kid in kindergarten sent home with a note saying, "April needs to practice cutting in the lines." LOL! That cracks me up because I'm still that kid. I mess up, drawing a straight line with a ruler!
As you can see with my sign, my spacing is off, and I'm pretty sure I used a ruler. That's ok because that is not one of my strengths. But you know what, I have a ton of other strengths, and those strengths have helped me become the person I am today. Mainly because I made a conscious choice to focus on my strengths and not my flaws! I intentionally choose to focus on what I can do well. It wasn't always this way; there was definitely a time that I spent too much attention on what I could not do instead of what I could do.
Now ask yourself if you can say the same? If the answer is no, you are not alone. We are taught that flaws equal weakness, and that weakness means you will be unsuccessful. Blah, blah, blah. It's a bullshit narrative that leads us to focus on our flaws and doubt ourselves.
You can choose to follow that narrative, or you can choose a new narrative. One that focuses on your strengths and allows you to accept your flaws because you are human, and we all have them.
You can do a quick little exercise to start changing your narrative by taking out a piece of paper or pulling up the note section on your phone. I want you to list at least 10 strengths or qualities about yourself that you feel good about. How did listing them make you feel? Proud, uncomfortable, or maybe a little of both?
If you are struggling with listing at least 10, don't worry! We can work on that and remember you're not alone. Reach out to a good friend and ask them to name some of your strengths or positive qualities they admire about you. I guarantee they can list of 10 with no problem! And if they can't, you need new friends! Now, how does reading their list make you feel?
Hold on to this because I have a part two coming up with a follow-up exercise.
I had scheduled a photo shoot a couple months ago to update my website and social media accounts with a new head shot. I was excited and had my two outfits for the shoot picked out weeks in advance. A couple days before the shoot, I started stressing out over what I was going to wear. I reached out to a friend via text:
Me: I have nothing to wear for my photoshoot
Her: Yes, you do. You have lots of cute outfits
Me: Yes, but none of them are perfect…...
I stopped dead in my tracks as typed the last letter of that dreaded word
"perfect "and out loud said "son of a bitch". Perfectionism had crept in, and I hadn't even noticed. I immediately stopped rummaging through my closet. I was going to wear the original two outfits I had picked out weeks ago because damn it they are good enough!
Perfectionism isn't something that some people have, and others don't. We have all experienced it on some level. For some, it can show up when we are feeling extra vulnerable, and in others, it shows up daily as a compulsion to be perfect in everything we do. Whether it shows up sporadically or daily, it can wreak havoc on our sense of self and leave us feeling not good enough if it goes unchecked.
Perfectionism is the belief that if you look perfect, act perfect and do everything perfect than others cant shame, blame, or judge you. Perfectionism is you trying to avoid or minimize negative feelings that shame, blame, and judgment bring on.
Perfectionism is a self-sabotaging behavior. When you aim for perfection, you are literally setting yourself up for failure. Because perfection is unattainable. We can't control others perceptions of us no matter how hard we try.
Signs you may be struggling with perfectionism:
I meet weekly with a group of ladies as part of an accountability group. AKA my tribe of BADASS WOMEN. The past couple of weeks I have been so appreciative of our support and encouragement for one another. I am reminded that support from like-minded genuine, authentic women can be empowering.
I often see/hear women compare and criticize one another. Women who don't want to see other women succeed. Women that want to keep us stuck on sticky floors rather than shattering glass ceilings. Discussing our goals and aspirations with overly critical people can be discouraging. Allowing ourselves to be swayed by others criticisms can keep us from applying for that promotion, college or graduate program. Keep us from taking risks and putting ourselves out there to be seen and heard. Surrounding ourselves with negative people stunts our growth and can negatively impact our self -esteem. These individuals can be our "friends" or family, and that makes it even more hurtful and difficult because their opinions matter to us.
So what should you do if you find yourself surrounded by negative Nancy's?
Build your own tribe. Find like-minded, supportive, goal driven women that aspire to be the best versions of themselves and encourage that in others. Surround yourself with women that promote growth. Women who wholeheartedly want the best for you and are going to provide you with constructive feedback. Women who are going to high five your accomplishments and genuinely be happy for your successes. We all need support and connection. Even the most successful independent person has their tribe of people they can count on. When you surround yourself with strong, encouraging, supportive women, you are setting yourself up for success. Find your tribe of BADASS women.
"We all have it.
We are all afraid to talk about it.
The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives." - Brene Brown
Shame is an emotion that relates to our sense of self. It's a painfully strong emotion that leaves us in fear of being unlovable and unworthy. It makes feel flawed and never good enough.
Signs you may be struggling with shame:
How Therapy Treats Shame
Therapy gives you the tools to work through and fight shame.
Therapy will help you with the following :
“Every woman that finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change.”
― Shannon L. Alder
What Is Self-Esteem?
Self- Esteem is often described as a fair-weathered friend here one minute and gone the next. Self-Esteem is how we view our selves in comparison to others. Individuals well-being can easily be influenced by their self-esteem. Low self-esteem is one of the most common underpinnings of individuals seeking therapy.
Signs of low self-esteem/confidence:
Some people develop low self-esteem in childhood. When adults harshly criticize children for mistakes, it's easy to internalize those messages. Negative childhood experiences, such as trauma, child abuse or bullying, can also contribute to low self-esteem. As an adult experiences such as break ups, loss of employment, and other life changes can impact your self esteem.
Therapy For Low Self-Esteem .
Therapy teaches you self-compassion. Self-Compassion is loving and treating yourself the way you would a friend in need. Self-compassion is made up of three parts:
All of us are familiar with the heart-quickening nervous feeling of anxiety. We feel afraid, we may find it harder to breathe, and are worried something bad is about to happen. Anxiety is meant to warn of us potential dangers both physically and emotionally. Its sole purpose is to keep us alive and out of danger. Sometimes our anxiety can become hijacked. Think of anxiety as a light switch on and off. When working correctly it turns itself on to warn of possible danger such as walking down a dark alley at night and then returns to the off position when the danger has passed. When your anxiety has been hijacked it's stuck in the on position. Which in turn keeps you feeling on edge and unable to relax. You are constantly ruminating about the past and worrying about the future and never really living in the present. This hijacking keeps you from living in the present, feeling at ease, trying new experiences, going out in public and maybe even talking in front of others.
Often, an individual with anxiety will have experienced unstable or frightening environments as a child. They are exposed to abuse and emotional neglect and feel it as a threat to their survival. This leads to their anxiety switching to the constant on mode.
Also, some of us experience anxiety as result of experiencing certain emotions that we never learned how to accept or process. If we are experiencing anger or sadness but have always been taught that they are unacceptable emotions to have then when we experience them, we begin to feel anxious because we don’t know how to handle them.
How Therapy Helps With Anxiety
Therapy helps anxiety in many ways. First, therapy provides you with a safe space to share your thoughts, feelings and experiences. Unlike your friends and family, your therapist understands how debilitating and overwhelming anxiety can be. Clients often experience a decrease in anxiety as they begin to feel more comfortable sharing parts of themselves. Second, in therapy, you will start to explore what triggers your anxiety and how to cope with it. Third, anxiety has a physical response in our bodies. Therapy helps you learn more about it, tolerate it and accept it. Working on the parts listed above decreases your anxiety and allows you to stop living in the past and future and start living in the present.
SYMPTOMS OF ADULT ANXIETY:
“Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. . . . It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it's a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.” J.K. Rowling
I describe depression as a dark cloud that hangs over you. At times this cloud becomes so dark and large it is difficult to see anything other than darkness. You feel alone and unsupported. That cynical, overly critical voice in your head becomes louder and more persistent. Low moods and energy lead to lack of motivation, isolation and little interest or pleasure in things. Thoughts of hopelessness/worthlessness creep in a and become painfully overwhelming. Sometimes people experience thoughts of hurting themselves or even of death.
There are several factors that can lead to depression, such as family history, relationship problems, life problems, unresolved grief, trauma or shame.
How Therapy Helps With Depression
Therapy helps with depression by putting you in contact with a caring and supportive therapist. Your therapist understands that depression isn't something you can "just get over". They understand depression runs deeper. You don’t have to feel alone with these overwhelming thoughts and feelings. As clients open up in therapy and receive empathy and validation, they begin to experience relief and connection. As we explore your depressive symptoms, we work to identify the root of your depression. Discussing your depression is often the first step to examining your Backstory in a safe and caring environment that allows you to heal the parts that need healing. This process helps to reduce your current symptoms and create long lasting and meaningful change.
SYMPTOMS OF ADULT DEPRESSION:
When I first started my journey of becoming a therapist suicide scared me. Talking about suicide scared me I told myself talking about it would make it worse. I told myself it would make the individual feel uncomfortable when in reality it was me that was scared and uncomfortable.
This is the problem society is experiencing today regarding suicide. Suicide scares people, and it makes them uncomfortable. What do we do when something makes us uncomfortable? We avoid it or act out of fear! Family members look the other way hoping it will resolve itself and mental health professionals automatically jump to hospitalization. I have witnessed and heard the above scenarios happen more often than not. We aren't sitting down with these individuals asking them how we can help or asking them what they need from us?
It's this thought process that is keeping a veil of shame around suicide. Keeping individuals feeling ashamed and not reaching out for help. How to do we fight shame? By talking about it. The more we talk about it, the less power shame holds. (Channeling my inner Brene Brown here)
Through education, experience and speaking with individuals I have grown into the therapist that is now not only comfortable talking about suicide but also working with clients that are currently experiencing suicide or have a history of it. When someone voices suicide to me, my first reaction no longer is "oh shit" but rather " ok let's have a deeper conversation about this."
As friends and family, we can do better! As mental health professionals, we can do better! As a community, we can do better!
When we enter a new relationship, it is easy for us to get caught up in the excitement of something new that we tend to ignore or excuse the unhealthy behavior in our partner. The following red flags should never be ignored.