All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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Exercises to build self-esteem: #6. Setting your goals

The past, the present…

Have you ever looked at another person and wonder how they do it? How they overcome all forms of adversity to become someone brilliant, someone talented, someone the world looks up to? The answer, unsurprisingly given the theme of the week, is confidence. It doesn’t matter whether you conform to societal ideals of beauty or if you have a piece of paper with a few letters scribbled on it, what matters is how you see who you were, who you are and who you want to be.

This week we have examined exercises that deal with both past and present. The things we are grateful for; the many things we love about ourselves; the simple joys and pleasures of life. Today, it’s time to think about the future.

…and the future!

Quite often, those with low self-esteem have a difficult time believing they will ever amount to anything. Their mind is too busy holding the mistakes of the past against them to allow them time to think of the future. In those rare moments when we do think of the future, it is always clouded with negative statements like I’m not good enough to do that or there’s no way I can become this, negative statements that sabotage us into not even trying in the first place.

A method which can be used to focus our mind onto what we want to become is to set some reachable goals. Nothing outlandish, we’re not talking I want to discover the location of the lost city of Atlantis here, just simple things that can help us believe in ourselves and push us toward attaining our desires, all of which we deserve.

Setting your goals

1. Take a clean sheet of paper. It wouldn’t surprise me given how many times I’ve written that this week, that sooner or later it will become a major search term that brings people to this blog!

2. Make sure you are in a comfortable and relaxed situation.

3. Upon the paper, begin to write down realistic goals that you would like to achieve in your life.

Some tips to help set your goals:

– State your goals in the positive. There’s no place for negativity here, send all that to the naughty corner.
– Don’t overcomplicate your goals or make them completely unattainable, this will only bring you down.
– Make sure you have full and total control of your goal. This is a reliance free zone!
– Remember, it’s all about the details. Make each goal as detailed as possible.

4. Once you have pictured you goal, try to list a few things you can do to realize it. Don’t worry too much if you can’t at this stage. The important thing with this exercise is to practice focusing on your needs and desires, to allow yourself to believe you can have the future you deserve.

5. Once you have written your goals pin them above your desk, put them in your journal, keep them in your nightstand so you can return to them in the future and keep them updated.

My goals

When it came to setting my goals I decided to set six of them, as I like the number six and lots of wonderful things happen in sixes, like…ummm…chocolate hot cross buns usually come in packs of six, and…umm…well, it’s just a nice number okay! A neat half dozen dreams!

Although from this point on they are not dreams, they are things that will happen, with a bit of hard work.

Goal #1: To obtain the Disability Support Pension

Why it is important to me:
(Try to list as many reasons as you can)

1. It is impossible for me to balance mental health, housing, bills and food on the Newstart allowance.
2.
I believe the DSP will allow me to get some form of humility (and then life) back.
3.
It will help me stabilize my mental health problems as I won’t have so many hoops to jump through.
4.
Being on the DSP will help me view myself as ‘no longer being on the verge of homelessness 24/7!’

What do I need to do to make this goal a reality?
(Once you have the goal in your head, try to jot down a few things you can do to realize these emotions)

I need to make an appointment to see my doctor and have him fill out the relevant paperwork before handing over my application at the nearest Centrelink office before twiddling my thumbs for several weeks (months?) whilst they faff around trying to make a decision – all whilst I continue hovering over the abyss of homelessness because hey, that’s what bureaucracy is all about!

Date goal was set: 30 September 2012

Date goal was accomplished:

Goal #2: To get a haircut

Why it is important to me:

1. Because it is too scruffy and makes me look ugly.
2.
It will help me win a victory in my battle against anxiety (as I have major issues with hairdressers)
3.
It will increase my self-confidence.

What do I need to do to make this goal a reality?

I need to spank my anxiety and distrust of humanity into submission long enough to: walk down the road, enter a hairdressing salon, speak to the (usually gorgeous female) hairdresser, sit down and allow someone to be all intimate with my hair. This is a lot harder for me than it sounds! I also need to achieve goal #1, for without it, I can’t afford a haircut and cutting it myself is a really bad idea!

Date goal was set: 30 September 2012

Date goal was accomplished:

Goal #3: This one’s personal, sorry, but I’ll tell you why it’s important…

Why it is important to me:

1. It would be the realization of a lifelong dream.
2.
It would be a major victory in my battle against anxiety.
3.
It would be a major victory in my battle against depression.
4.
It would be a major victory in my battle against the trauma of abuse.
5.
It would increase my self-confidence.
6. I would be honoring a promise I made to Sammi.
7. It would make me so very happy, and I need more of that.
8. It would give me something interesting to write about on my blog.

Date goal was set: 30 September 2012

Date goal was accomplished:

Goal #4: To attend a social event (where there are other people, obviously)

Why it is important to me:

1. It would be a major victory in my battle against anxiety.
2.
Because I miss socializing and being around other people.
3.
It would make me happy.
4.
It would increase my self-confidence.
5.
It would give me something interesting to write about on my blog.
6.
I’m tired of being alone.

What do I need to do to make this goal a reality?

I need to spank my anxiety and distrust of humanity into submission long enough to: communicate with people online for a sufficient enough time to be invited somewhere, walk to the somewhere, be in a room full of people for several hours and talk to people whilst in that room without having an embarrassing (and ultimately humiliating) panic attack. I also need to achieve goal #1 and goal #2 otherwise I won’t be able to afford to go anywhere and I’d rather not look like a yeti if I did.

Date goal was set: 30 September 2012

Date goal was accomplished:

Goal #5: To write and have published online a short story or article

Why it is important to me:

1. I have loved writing since I was a child and it physically hurts when I can’t do it.
2.
There are so many stories inside me I need to get them out before they eat me from within.
3.
I believe I can write well enough for people to enjoy.
4.
It would be an achievement.
5.
It makes me happy.

What do I need to do to make this goal a reality?

All I need to do to achieve this is research a market and focus myself for long enough to write a piece that would fit the market; whether it is non-fiction, fiction, opinion or random diatribe. I have the intelligence and talent, but at this point in my life, I just don’t have the focus. Arg!

Date goal was set: 30 September 2012

Date goal was accomplished:

Goal #6: To develop and maintain an exercise routine

Why it is important to me:

1. It would increase my self-confidence and self-esteem.
2.
Because I want to be able to look in the mirror and be happy with what I see.
3.
It would help with my mental health.
4.
It would no doubt make for more embarrassing and amusing blog posts.

What do I need to do to make this goal a reality?

Get off my lazy, good for nothing, worthless ass and just start moving!

And that sentence is hardly embracing the lessons I’ve been imparting this week, so, I shall rewrite a little more positively.

Get off my gorgeous, highly spankable, magnificent ass and start making myself look even hotter than I already am!

I’d also need to find a bicycle as I miss cycling so very, very much!

Date goal was set: 30 September 2012

Date goal was accomplished:

Although I have not set an official time-frame for these goals, I am working toward having them accomplished by the end of this year. Each time a goal is accomplished I vow to write a blog post detailing how I went about it, what happened and how awesome it made me feel.

Coda

Self-esteem doesn’t come easy, nothing worth anything in life ever does, but if you suffer from low self-confidence please do not give up. I know how painful and debilitating having low self-esteem can be, I live with non-existent self-love every day, but I know that things will never change unless I make them.

Undertaking the exercises I’ve written about this week may seem silly and pointless, but I assure you it’s not. After completing each exercise I felt strangely calm and contented. Not only did it feel good to release some of the negativity, but allowing myself the honor of loving myself made me smile, laugh and for a few moments filled me with the belief that I do deserve things. That I am worth something.

Even though the negative thoughts may return it’s important you keep believing how brilliant and beautiful you are.

Because no matter what anyone tells you – you really are someone wonderful :)

 

Other posts in this series:

 


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Exercises to build self-esteem: #5. Write a gratitude list

That will never happen to me!

There was a point in my life where I took things for granted. I had a relationship, friends, a reasonable income, relatively stable mental health and no physical ailments to worry about. My life was full off laughter, smiles, regular sex, all the hugs you could imagine and a future that anyone would be proud of.

If you had told me six years ago what was about to happen to me I wouldn’t have believed you, in fact, I would probably have paraphrased Spike and asked if you were stoned!

Like the vast majority of us, I took my life for granted. Like most I thought ‘it would never happen to me’.

Today, and for many years now, I am eternally grateful for everything I have.

Most have heard the phrase you don’t realise what you have until it’s gone because it is 100% true. We spend far too much time obsessing over what we don’t have or what’s wrong with our lives when we should be grateful for what we do have.

Which is why today, we’re going to write a gratitude list.

Writing your gratitude list

1. Take a clean sheet of paper (or brand spanking new blog post) and get comfortable.

2. Write down as many things as you can think of that you are grateful for about your life (no matter how insignificant it may be.)

3. When you have finished, read the list aloud and allow yourself to feel the gratitude.

4. Keep your list somewhere safe so you can add to it in the future when new things you are grateful for come to mind.

My gratitude list

As with each of the exercises this week, I am leading by example for one of my pet hates are people who expect others to do as they say, but not as they do. Today, I am aiming for one thing for every year of my life:

I am grateful...

∞ …for a roof over my head, because no matter how dodgy this place is, I know what the alternative is like…and it ain’t pretty!
∞ …for my inner-strength, because I don’t know where I’d be without it.
∞ …that I have such a creative and imaginative soul.
∞ …for my computer, however old, snail-like and lumbering it is, for without it I know I wouldn’t be here!
∞ …for having parents who are so giving and supportive.
∞ …for the existence of chocolate, because of  the myriad of benefits it can bring to physical and mental health.
∞ …for Sydney Newman, because without him the world wouldn’t have one of its greatest heroes.
∞ …for superglue, because without it I wouldn’t be able to fix my shoes and I’d be walking around bare foot all day!
∞ …for that moment of calm just after a thunderstorm; the smell, the calm, the stillness, all merging together to create something sublime.
∞ …that women aren’t the same as men, because otherwise the world would have descended into chaos and destruction eons ago.
∞ …for WordPress, because without it I would be completely disconnected. Ditto for Twitter.
∞ …to have had the chance to know so many beautiful people throughout my life.
∞ …that I have so much passion coursing through my veins.
∞ …for rainbows, because they never fail to make me smile. Ditto for sunsets, sunrises, lightning and wombats.
∞ …to all the people who read my blog, it makes me feel like I’m doing something productive rather than babbling to myself.
∞ …for my bottom, because I think it’s awesome.
∞ …for women’s bottoms, because I think they’re all awesome!
∞ …that even if people try to make me feel like one, and they have done in the past, I know I’m not a misogynist for typing that last sentence.
∞ …for my dreams, because they give me something to work toward.
∞ …for organisations that try to make a difference in the world; homeless services, anti-abuse movements, helplines, soup vans etc.
∞ …that I know how to read and write.
∞ …that even though I know they won’t help now, I keep pushing myself with posts like this because I know they will help one day.
∞ …for Runrig, Serena Ryder, P!nk, Paul Mounsey, Nina Simone, Kate Miller-Heidke, My Friend the Chocolate Cake, Capercaillie and the countless musicians that have created the soundtrack to my life.
∞ …that I always try to see the beauty in everything, rather than searching for every minor flaw and fault.
∞ …that I understand the meaning and power of silence.
∞ …that I never judge anyone, ever, and try to accept someone for who they are rather than a label that is placed upon them.
∞ …for Mark Schwahn, who created the show that once upon a time saved my life!
∞ …that I can admit to making mistakes and having regrets, because if I couldn’t, then how could I ever learn anything?
∞ …that I always try to stand up for what I believe in (even though I fail sometimes!)
∞ …that I always remember people’s birthdays. And anniversaries. And Valentine’s day. And any important date.
∞ …in fact, I’m grateful that I think more like a woman than a man.
∞ …for libraries, because without them society would be a lesser place.
∞ …for my courage, because it allows me to be as honest as I am.

So why don’t you give your own gratitude list a try? You’re more than welcome to keep your lists private, but feel free to link them up in the comments field below so we can all share in the inspiration :)


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Ten inspirational self-esteem quotes

It’s time you had a time out

Contemporary life can, at times, be somewhat stressful.

We fill our lives with Twitter, Facebook, the need for twenty-four hour a day contact and blogging. There’s traffic congestion, inbox congestion, nasal congestion and artery congestion. The eternal quest to eradicate wrinkles, lines, body hair and blemishes. Does my bum look big in this? Does my cleavage look too small in this? Does my toe look like it has a fungal infection in this? There’s the endless balance between work, home, family, friends and random strangers. Electricity, food, medication, gas, water, rates, taxes…those bloody taxes! Every day of our lives is an endless stream of stress and tension, relieved only when we chance upon some time for sex, cuddles, massages and cunnilingus. But only if we’re lucky enough to have them.

And then there’s physical health, and mental health, and emotional health, and at some point we need to stop.

Breath.

And take a time out.

This week has been such a week for me. I’ve tried to balance the mood swings, the loneliness, the insomnia and anxiety as best I can, all whilst undertaking exercises to increase positive thought and work toward better self-esteem. I’ve sought support (no change yet), completed dozens of forms, argued with Centrelink and found little joy in the long, cold nights.

There have been triggers galore trying to sabotage me, rivers of tears trying to humiliate me and flashbacks aplenty to some of the most traumatic, painful moments of my life. There has been servings of victim guilt, survivor guilt and man guilt mixed liberally with grief, sadness, worry and a pinch of depression with a heavy dollop of isolation.

So today, I am leading by example, and choosing to stop. Because if I don’t, my mental health will collapse and my self-esteem with it.

Although I cannot advise you on how and when you should stop – as you know your life and mind better than I – please take some time to work this out for yourself. I cannot say it strongly enough, but one of the key things with building self-esteem is knowing yourself. Of being aware of your triggers, of your moods and the balance with everything that makes up your life.

When you have the courage to pause and admit you need some time to relax away, to remove the stress and focus on joy, you’re well on your way to better self-esteem.

So for today there are no exercises, no lists, no technical worksheets requiring work and thought. There is only me, telling you to go and do something nice. Run yourself a bath, cuddle with your loved one, eat some ice-cream, go for a walk, pet your dog, phone a friend.

It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it puts a beautiful, calming smile on your beautiful, worthy face.

Inspirational self-esteem quotes

 


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Exercises to build self-esteem: #3. Personal positive experiences

Send you negative thoughts to the naughty corner!

So far this week we have looked at what self-esteem is; the value we place on ourselves and how we see ourselves in general, what low self-esteem is; when we as individuals hold deep-seated negative beliefs about ourselves, and how we can work toward improving these beliefs through altering our perceptions of who we are.

First, by focussing on the things that bring us pleasure (rather than pain) and secondly, on how it isn’t narcissistic to love our individual gifts and talents.

Today, we look at our experiences.

As many people who suffer from low-esteem may relate to, I spend a lot of time living in the negative space of my life. All day, every day, I am constantly reminding myself of all the things I have done wrong; of when I let my friends down, of when I failed to get a publishing deal for my book, of what I did to deserve being abused, of my time living on the streets, of every minor mistake and error I’ve ever committed. Rarely, do I look at the positive experiences I’ve had.

But to increase self-esteem we have to look at these experiences, for endlessly replaying the negative is merely feeding the vicious cycle of self-hatred that is fuelling our low levels of self-esteem. By focussing on the positive times we reprogram our brain to think of these first, relegating the negative into the annals of history to be forgotten.

One way to do this is, when you catch yourself dwelling on a negative, twist it around. For example, using the five examples above:

i) Instead of thinking of when I let my friends down I should think of the far more examples of when I was there for them however I could be.
ii) Instead of thinking of when I failed to get a publishing deal for my book I should think of when I had my short story published or that I had the courage to submit the book to publishers in the first place!
iii) Instead of thinking of what I did to deserve being abused I should be thinking fuck you, I didn’t do bloody anything to deserve such vicious treatment!
iv) Instead of thinking of my time living on the streets I should be thinking of all the things this period taught me about life. And that I survived.
v) Instead of thinking of every minor mistake and error I’ve ever committed I should be thinking of every major moment of brilliance I’ve ever performed!

The only problem is that not only is this very difficult to do, quite often we lacking in self-esteem don’t think about the positive things we’ve done in our lives.

Which is why our exercise today is all about that; our personal positive experiences.

Personal positive experiences…

1. Take out a clean sheet of paper and a pen of your choice.

2. Divide the paper into eight sections: Courage, Kindness, Selflessness, Love, Sacrifice, Wisdom, Happiness, Determination.

3. Under each section write about positive personal experiences that come under that category.

4. You don’t have to limit yourself to one example for each, the more you can think of the better!

5. Keep the paper somewhere handy so that (a) you can read it frequently and (b) you can add to it whenever you fancy.

 

Courage is the anwser

Courage is the answer (Photo credit: SIDΔ)

 

My Personal Experiences…

As with the other exercises this week, I lead by example.

NB: These are just the ones that came to mind, there’s probably more buried deep within me somewhere…I hope!

Courage

In 2012, after an eighteen month absence, I began blogging and tweeting to try to reconnect with the world.

In 2010, I happened upon a man who was assaulting his girlfriend. He claimed she ‘deserved’ to be punched and as a man I should understand that. I didn’t, because as a man, I fervently believe no-onedeserves to be punched in the face by their loved one. Rather than walking on by I stood up for what I believed in and ended up having the shit beaten out of me whilst thinking at least he’s not beating her.

In 2009, I became homeless. If you don’t think this requires courage, I suggest you head out and live on the streets for a week and then get back to me.

In 2009, I sent short stories and novel manuscripts to publishers. Given I am someone who constantly fears people reading his work this was a huge and courageous step for me. Although the novel went nowhere, I did have a short story published, which I’ve always been proud of.

In 2007, I began a blog that opened my entire life up for the world to see.

In 2007, on 11 October I chose life.

In 2007, despite Glandular Fever, anxiety and pre-existing mental health problems, I made a concerted effort to re-enter tertiary education. The rest, as they say, is history.

In 2002, I boarded a plane bound for Australia.

In 1999, I had the courage to follow my heart and begin backpacking.

In 198?, I stood up to schoolyard bullies who were mercilessly picking on my sister.

And it should go without saying…from now, until the day I die, I will be living with bipolar; that requires courage!

Kindness

In 2011, despite homelessness, I felt compelled to donate to the appeals raising money for victims of the Queensland and Victorian floods.

In 2010, I gave a person new to the streets my blanket, some food and the last of my money as they had nothing. The next day I took them to organisations that would help them access housing and services.

In 2009, I tried to help Stephanie through her depression and suicidal thoughts.

In 2006, I spent nearly fifteen hours making a playlist for my friend’s 21st as no-one else was willing to do it. No music, no party!

And when I had friends I always tried to remember their birthdays and get them a present (however small it may have been!)

Selflessness

In 2010, I turned down accommodation so another homeless person (who appeared worse than I) would have somewhere indoors.

In 2008, I turned down the chance to experience something I’d always wanted to experience as I knew it would impact negatively on a friend.

In 2007, I cancelled an important hospital appointment I’d waited months for because my friend needed emotional support. It was three more months of worry before I was able to get another one, but I’ve never regretted it as my friend was upset.

In 2006, I phoned in sick/opted out of four shifts at work so I could be there for my glandular fever suffering girlfriend. (Note: at the time I was on an extremely low-income and needed all the money I could get, but her health and wellbeing were more important to me.)

In 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006, I put my own Christmas wishes aside to try to give my backpacking clients the best day possible.

Love

In 2008, I always tried to be there for my girlfriend during her depressive episodes, regardless of my work commitments, regardless of how triggered I became and the subsequent fallout to my mental health as I knew how much worse it would be if she was on her own.

In 2007, I spent eight hours cooking and preparing a three course candlelit meal for my girlfriend before paying my housemates to bugger off for the evening so my girlfriend and I could have some alone time. (Note: she phoned ten minutes before she’d agreed to come over and told me if we didn’t go to the restaurant she wanted to go to she wouldn’t see me that night.)

In 2006/07, I wrote a personalised interactive novella to give my girlfriend as a birthday present (Note: she broke up with me suddenly before I had the chance to give it to her)

In 2006, I organised a surprise day of fun for a friend who was going through a bad-time; we began with the circus, then went ice-skating, a picnic in the park, swimming/sauna/spa/water slides, a theatre trip and then a late dinner in Lygon Street. It cost me a small fortune, but the smile on her face was worth it.

In 2004, I imported an engagement ring from Scotland because I wanted my fiance to have a ring that was unique, special and meaningful.

In 2002, I emigrated to Australia.

In 2002, I lived in my childhood bedroom whilst my girlfriend traveled Europe and returned to Australia eighteen months before her visa for the UK was up, even though it killed me to do so, it was the only way I was able to afford to save for Australia.

In 2001, even though I’d known her for only five days, I let my girlfriend move in with me as she had nowhere else to go.

And I always tried to be there for my partners and friends whenever they had a problem.

Sacrifice

In 2005, I cancelled two adult education courses I wanted to undertake as they clashed with my employment commitments.

In 2002, I sacrificed my family, friends and country of birth to emigrate to Australia without knowing if I would ever see them again.

In 2001/02, I turned down a university course so I could move to Australia to be with the woman I loved.

Wisdom

In 2011 and 2010, I did whatever I could to impart advice to fellow homeless people who were new to the street (e.g. where they could go to get help, how best to keep warm, best places for food etc.)

In 2009, I wrote a newspaper opinion piece containing several pearls of wisdom I’d picked up over the years.

In 2007, I started writing a blog that I hoped would help share the lessons I’d learned with the rest of the world.

Happiness

In 2010, I cuddled a wombat, and thus fulfilled a life long dream!

In 2007, after a lifetime of hard work to get myself into that position, I returned to college.

In 2004, my girlfriend and I were going to get married. (Note: she called the wedding off as she didn’t want to get married until same-sex marriage was legalised. I still think it had more to do with not loving me/not wanting to commit, but what do I know?)

In 2001, I was living in the best flat I’ve ever had.

In 2000, I spent three months traveling Canada.

In 1999 ann 2000, I spent six months traveling in Scotland.

Determination

Umm, really? Refusing to give up…even after giving up! Constantly trying to work toward a better me. Endlessly fighting mental illness with little to non-existent support. Giving stigma the spanking it deserves, regardless of the damage it does to my life. Three years living on the streets. Writing this blog on/off for five years. Challenging myself and the way I think. Never giving up on my dreams. Pushing myself each and every day to get out of bed and keep on going in the hope that someday, preferably before I’m too old to enjoy it, I no longer have to prove how fucking awesome I am to the world, or myself – we’ll all just believe it and eat chocolate cake instead!

Note: At the end of yesterday’s post I indicated that today we would be getting an article about emotional abuse and the effect it had on my self-esteem. After last night’s bout of insomnia and the stream of consciousness that erupted from it, I decided to change tact for today’s self-esteem post. So apologies for anyone who was looking forward to emotional abuse discussion, it will probably be here tomorrow :)


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Exercises to Build Self Esteem: #2. Love your talents and gifts

Narcissism vs Gratitude

Since beginning this blog in 2007 I’ve spoken frequently of the importance of loving ourselves.

When I wrote this post I was worried it would make me look like a narcissist. When I recently reposted it as part of the Voice of the Past series this same fear of being viewed as arrogant and self-absorbed returned; resulting in several arguments with myself over whether I should post it, and after I did, whether I should remove it. To this day I still think it makes me look self-important, vain and narcissistic.

But does it? Aren’t those fears yet another example of the negative way I view myself?

If we do not love ourselves, we cannot expect other people to love us; and if we don’t believe in ourselves, then how can we expect anyone else to believe in us?

Learning to love yourself is not an exercise in narcissistic behaviour, but a lesson in respect, appreciation and gratitude for the beautiful person you are. Sometimes the challenges we go through in life – abuse, mental illness, homelessness – can lead to our brain’s being reprogrammed to view ourselves in a certain light.

Ever since I was a child, being bullied at school, right through adulthood and the triple whammy of emotional abuse-rape-homelessness, I have been constantly told how worthless and useless I am. Partners, friends, colleagues, strangers, all lining up to endlessly criticise me into the ground, rarely if ever, offering any words of encouragement, compliment or support.

Which is why this exercise is so difficult, for today we are looking at the talents, skills and gifts you possess that you just love.

Write your ‘I Love…’ list

1. Take a clean sheet of paper and draw a smiling sun in the top left hand corner for no other reason than to make you smile :)

2. At the top of the list write the heading I Love…

3. Now, write as many things that you admire, honor and appreciate about yourself as you can. The talents you have, the skills you possess, the ability you have to do things better than anyone else.

4. Once you’ve written your list take your beautiful self to a mirror and, beginning with I love… each time, read each item out loud.

5. Repeat on a daily basis until you cannot deny your own awesomeness any longer.

My I Love… list

As mentioned at the beginning of this post I wrote one of these lists many years ago. For today’s exercise I will write the list afresh, with no apologies if I happen to repeat anything that featured way back when. Although I fear it will be nowhere near as long as that list!

I love…

…my inner strength
…that I always try to help the people I care about, no matter what
…my unquenchable desire to help others whenever I can
…my bum
…my thirst for knowledge, that I keep pushing myself to learn new things and better myself
…my kind and giving nature
…that I’m willing to make sacrifices for the people I care about
…that I’m able to appreciate what I have in life
…my ability to see the good in people
…my honesty
…my courage, that even though it would be easier to crawl into a hole and die, I still keep putting myself out there
…my bipolar
…my eclectic taste in music, and I wouldn’t want it any other way
…my eyes
…my two freckles on my left hand
some of my scars, as they’re reminders of the past
…my creativity
…my ambitiousness nature
…my ability to remain quiet and listen when I need to
…that I have a man-crush on Niles (from Frasier)
..that I am a published writer, because if I’ve already done it, I can do it again!
…that I support the causes I believe in with a fiery passion
…my bum (I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again)
…that I never judge anyone, ever
…that I never leap to conclusions until I know the whole story
…my compassionate nature
…my ludicrously completed 40year, three generational story arc for my Inverness Chronicles
…that it actually make sense when viewed as a whole
…my contradictions
…that I cry when I need to
…feeling proud of my old friends and all they’ve achieved in life.
…my kinky side
…that I don’t carry grudges
…that I love tofu
…my eyes, even when they have bags under them because of insomnia
…my mistakes, because they give me things to learn from
…that I’m grateful for all I’ve been gifted in life
…that I can accept the part luck has played in my life
…being a sooky romantic
…that I keep trying

…and I’ll leave it there for now!
(PS…remember, your body was a gift given to you at birth)

Coda: The Importance of Repetition

After writing every entry in the above list my mind immediately began scanning for abuse and criticism I’ve received to dispel it.

That I cry when I need to, was endlessly criticised by my abuser as men should never – ever – cry under any circumstances! My bipolar, ummm, look around. Do you see anyone in my life? Nope. Exactly. My kinky side, has been attacked and criticised by all-but-one person I’ve opened up to for the last twelve years. That I’m willing to make sacrifices for the people I care about, my compassionate nature and that I always try to help the people I care about, no matter what have been roundly disproved by the few occasions I failed to be there for people in my life. My bum, attacked by two of my girlfriends as being ugly, horrible, unattractive and that I should consider getting plastic surgery. Feeling proud of my old friends and all they’ve achieved in life because they don’t know that, and never will, because I’m too scared to get back in contact.

This instantaneous, almost subconscious reaction, is not only a perfect example of a mind lacking in self-esteem, but of the intense psychological damage emotional abuse can reek on someone’s life. Five and a half years after the event my soul is still under her control!

Repetition is one of the only weapons to combat this constant barrage of haunting abuse. By constantly reiterating what you love about yourself, without you even realising it, you will start to believe it.

You will start to believe that you’re the gorgeous person you actually are.

Tomorrow…Emotional Abuse: Words are just as powerful as a fist

 


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Exercises to Build Self Esteem: #1. Pleasure and Happiness

“Pleasure is the only thing one should live for, nothing ages like happiness.”
~ Oscar Wilde ~

Accentuate the positives

The first exercise toward building better self-esteem is to focus on the positives. Now, I’m not a convert into the positive thinking movement, in fact I find books that proclaim all we need to do is think positively and everything we want will magically appear out of thin air complete crap. I don’t believe someone can ‘pretend away depression’ nor do I believe thinking positively will cure you of cancer or the myriad of other illnesses that people suffer from.

However, thinking positive thoughts about ourselves can bring about an attitude change toward better self-perception.

Once upon a time I was in a counselling session. I had seen this counsellor for several sessions and in each one he noted how stressed and tense I was; how I sat in a defensive position, how I guarded my words, how my entire being was rigid in a state of alert tension. To combat this he began asking me about times in my life when I was at my happiest, I began talking to him about Grace, about pub trivia teams and then about Louise, about camping in the wilderness, about Kathy and Deborah. Within fifteen minutes I’d launched into a monologue that lasted nearly thirty minutes, merrily skipping through my travels in Canada, of hikes with Annie, accidental beaver spotting and a rambling diatribe about how I missed the confidence I’d exuded during that period. After my talking tailed off he pointed out how my demeanour had changed; I was now sitting upright, arms by my side inside of crossed in front of me, there was a spark in my eye and the tension had melted away with each second I’d allowed myself to bathe in these memories.

The simple act of returning to pleasurable times had caused a noticeable physical and mental change within me.

People suffering from low self-esteem often dwell in the unhappiness, the pain and the negative aspects of their life. They do so to ‘prove’ their thinking is real and that they deserve to think so harshly of themselves; rarely, if ever, do they focus on positivity and pleasure.

Thus, today’s activity (from Self-Esteem Experts) is to create a pleasure list; a comprehensive directory of all the people, places, things and activities that bring you pleasure whenever you think about or partake in them.

Once you have completed the list, pin it on your fridge, carry it in your wallet, keep it somewhere close so that whenever you are feeling unhappy, or judging yourself harshly, or experiencing a bad self-esteem moment, you can turn to it and allow yourself the memories of happiness that will see, like in my counselling session, a noticeable change in attitude.

Writing your Pleasure List

1. Take a clean sheet of paper and head somewhere you feel safe and relaxed.

2. Divide the paper into four sections:

– Section 01: People and Pets (who bring me pleasure when I think of them)
– Section 02: Places (that bring me pleasure when I think of them)
– Section 03: Things (that bring me pleasure when I think of them)
– Section 04: Things I like to do (that bring me pleasure)

3. Then write as many examples as you can under each section.
4. Remember to allow yourself to feel happy!

No matter how negatively you think of yourself, no matter how hard you convince yourself you do not deserve happiness – you do! You deserve all the happiness in the world, so always remember to focus on the things you adore, the places you cherish and the people you love. In time, you will see a positive change not only in how you think but how you see your beautiful self.

My Pleasure List

Given my life is an open blog I will now share with you my pleasure list:

B&B Threesome; alas, not that kind of threesome! (February 2000)

There are snakes in that lake! (Canada, 2000)

The green skirt of my dreams (February 2007)

Hostel Takeover; my one and only pub trivia team (March 2006)

(All images painted by renowned impressionist painter Mr. Pho Toscape and © Addy)

Tomorrow…Ways to Build Self-Esteem #2: Talents and Skills


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Building positive self-esteem

What is self-esteem?

Self-love, self-perception, self-confidence, self-[insert word of choice] are terms that refer to the way we view and think about ourselves. As human beings we all have the power of self-awareness; the ability to be aware of ourselves and place value on our thoughts, actions, appearance and personality. Self-esteem refers to the value we place on ourselves and how we see ourselves in general.

Exercise 1: How do you see yourself? Take a few minutes to write a description of yourself:

“The descriptions that come to mind whenever I think of myself are: fat, ugly, worthless, useless, a waste of space, pointless, uneducated, a terrible friend, stupid, talentless, weak, shy, anxious, unloveable, contagious and evil. There are many more: better off dead, boring, disgusting, perverted, unfashionable, unattractive, sick, fucked up, grotesque and I should probably stop there otherwise there’s a good chance I’ll either burst into tears and/or start beating myself with a stick as punishment for being the most repulsive human being to have ever existed in the span of human history.

Every now and then, in my weaker moments, I see the beauty within me; the strength in my soul to have persevered though all the trauma that has befallen me, the creativity that oozes from every pore of my being, the compassion that lies at the very core of my heart. But whenever I think of these things I am quick to dismiss them, to refocus on the negative, the criticism and my numerous failings.

It’s almost impossible for me to write a description of myself because I see myself as someone who is better off dead. Someone who has no worth as an individual and has no right to be considered a member of the human race. It’s been like this, to a certain extent, ever since I was a child. Hence my need to work on building my self-esteem and how I view myself.

Note: as I will be returning to this later in the week, each of the bolded descriptives above were things my abuser called me on several occasions, confirming my own negative beliefs and conditioning my mind to view myself in this way.”

What is low self-esteem?

Low self-esteem is when we as individuals hold deep-seated negative beliefs about ourselves. Someone with low self-esteem doesn’t place a high value on their worth as a person and often describe themselves using negative terminology (fat, ugly, weak, unimportant, useless, stupid, worthless etc). These beliefs are often viewed as facts and considered a true indicator of someone’s identity, even though this is rarely the reality.

Exercise 2: Do you have any of these negative thoughts that you didn’t include in the description above? Write these down now:

“I shall quickly add: hairy, selfish, soft, over emotional, cowardly, impolite, inconsiderate, lazy, weak-willed, indecisive, bone-idle, careless and again, bolded words were used by my abuser.”

As a result low self-esteem can have a severe impact on someone’s life. People with low self-esteem are quick to criticise themselves, talk negatively about their appearance, doubt themselves and are quick to dismiss compliments. Quite often they will ignore the positive aspects of their life and instead focus on their mistakes, taking the blame for things that were ultimately out of their control. Their negative self-view will often be the catalyst that causes them to ‘talk themselves out’ of pursuing the activities they wish to do whilst pushing themselves to overwork to make up for, or cover up, their perceived lack of skill.

Pleasurable activities will often be avoided as they believe they do not deserve to have any happiness in their lives. In relationships they will either overcompensate; bending over backwards to please friends, lovers, family or avoid intimacy and social contact altogether. Low self-esteem can lead to self-medication with drugs or alcohol to numb the pain or act as punishment for their inadequacies. Whilst personal hygiene can falter as the ‘why bother’ mentality sets in.

Exercise 3: If it applies, how has low self-esteem impacted on your life? Take a few moments to write down some problems it’s caused:

“Low self-esteem has caused so many problems throughout my life, as I’ve mentioned in other areas of this blog, that it’s safe to say it’s pretty much destroyed my entire existence. I’ve lost friends because of low self-esteem, chosen the wrong courses at A-level, been unable to connect on a social level, had employment opportunities slip away, made irrational life decisions, ended up alone and isolated, been unable to pursue my passions (writing, photography, art, sexual predilections) and missed out on social events that could have helped me.

Whilst I was in relationships I would always over-compensate (although partly because of my compassionate nature) and allow myself to be walked over (e.g. my first girlfriend’s European trip and subsequent ill-timed affair, my second girlfriend’s abuse, my third girlfriend’s infidelity) whereas with friends I’ve always been unable to connect on an emotional level because I lacked the confidence to do so whilst what friendships I did manage to make were also affected by overcompensation.

There are times when I’ve turned to alcohol to numb the pain, as well as self-harm, gambling and suicidal ideation. Personal hygiene (although not helped by my bipolar and homelessness) has been frequently affected as well as numerous ‘punishments’ that I’ve inflicted on myself for being such a worthless member of humanity.”

What can be done?

Having low self-esteem can have a severe, debilitating effect on someone’s life, but it need not be a permanent mental state. It is possible to develop self-esteem and increase the confidence we have in ourselves but, like with everything in life, it requires hard work and dedication.

Throughout this week I will be looking at exercises that can be undertaken to boost ones self-esteem, ways in which we can reprogram our mind and tasks that can be performed to begin viewing ourselves in a more positive light.

You’re more than welcome to join me, should you wish :)

Tomorrow…Ways to Build Self Esteem: #1. Create a pleasure list >>>