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What I Learned from My Long Journey to Self-Worth

How the journey of a lifetime had an unknown destination.

I was 25 and unhappy. And I had no right to be. After all, I had everything anyone could want — a great job, a great education, somewhere to live, amazing friends. Yet, I was unhappy. Which also made me feel guilty and ungrateful.

As soon as I realised that I was unhappy, I promised myself I’d get to the bottom of it. That I would set out on a journey of discovery, which wouldn’t end until I understood why I, someone with everything, wasn’t deliriously happy.

My journey started with a bang. I imposed a ‘do not contact me’ order on a few people in my life who I instinctively recognised were toxic. Two were close family members. From this point on, I knew my journey wasn’t going to make me popular or meet with approval. But that didn’t matter — my promise to myself took precedence over all else.

The bang continued in the form of constant change, much of it, major. I changed jobs a couple of times, then moved 3,500 miles away from my hometown — I really felt I needed the space. For the next 18 years, I carried on changing jobs and moving endlessly. After each change, I’d get another piece of the puzzle and feel happier as a result, but, pretty soon, the unhappiness would return. Sometimes less intensely than before; sometimes more intensely.

I still had no real idea why I was unhappy, but was peeling back the layers of ignorance, one by one. Every now and then, I’d think I’d found the answer. This would manifest as my feeling lighter and happier for a longer period of time than usual. But then something would happen to knock me back down to earth.

After 18 years of being away, I returned to my hometown to look after an ailing parent. The minute I arrived, I knew that my journey was far from over. Every unhappiness button of mine was being pushed by what I was experiencing. This continued for seven long years, fuelled by intense stress and loss.

During that time, I flailed about, not knowing how to make my life feel any better. Until one cold winter’s day when I completely fell apart. I started crying and couldn’t stop. For hours. I had no control over it. When I finally did stop crying, I knew how to make my life feel better. I needed help.

I hated having to ask for help. After all, wasn’t I always the one who did the helping? Someone asked me why I found it so hard to ask for help when I clearly needed it. I, who is never lost for words, was lost for words. That intrigued me.

When I probed this further with people close to me, the question of ‘worth’ came up. “Maybe you don’t ask for help, because you don’t think you deserve to be helped,” observed a friend. “Of course I deserve help! Look at what I’m having to deal with on my own!” was my quick-fire reply. “Of course you deserve help! But do you think you’re deserving of help? Do you believe that you’re worthy of help?” was my friend’s considered response.

Stunned silence was my response this time.

This notion of worthiness sent me down a whole new path on my journey. “What is worthiness?” I pondered. “Is it confidence?”

I didn’t think so. Confidence seemed less deep — it was something you could fake ‘till you made it’. Yet, it was important — it seemed to hold your life together. I noticed — in myself and others — that when you had self-confidence, you were productive. You were both effective and efficient. I also noticed that productivity fed your self-confidence — like begat like. And that self-confidence was fragile.

Relentless stress or a sudden increase in stress levels seemed to be responsible for self-confidence’s fragility. It was as if stress tipped you over an edge into free fall. In free fall, you felt overwhelmed — you were no longer productive — and stuck. You didn’t know how to move forward — how to take yourself back to a place of self-confidence.

I noticed something bigger, too. That when your self-confidence took a hit for any length of time, a deeper part of you also took a hit.

My instinct told me that experiencing this feeling in the deeper place was more serious. It seemed as though poor self-confidence undermined your external self — whereas damage to this deeper place undermined your core self.

Damage to your self-confidence affected your productivity. Damage to your deeper self affected what you thought about yourself.

I could see that this deeper place clearly held the key to what had pushed me on my journey all those years ago. And, over time, I came to understand what it was — and why it was so important.

That deep place was my self-worth.

Your sense of self-worth is at the root of all of your belief systems. And your belief systems drive your behaviour and feelings.

So if you have great self-worth, then you’ll be a largely happy, “I can do anything I set my mind to” kind of person. If you have poor self-worth, you’ll be a largely unhappy, “I have no control over my life” kind of person.

The self-worth spectrum contains endless points, from ‘zero’ at one end to ‘true’ at the other. Building your self-worth takes a strong desire and relentless effort — no matter where you lie on its spectrum. Even if you start out with strong self-worth, it can be eroded by life’s challenges and your response to them.

But once you reach the ‘true self-worth’ end of the spectrum, you stay there. You stay there, because every cell in your body believes you are worthy. That you are worthy of love.

My journey led me to the discovery that love holds the key to everything. Because love is at the root of self-worth. If you believe you are loveable — worthy of receiving love — then you are worthy of receiving everything else. Of receiving help, of receiving remuneration in keeping with the value you add, of receiving kindness. And of truly giving love. Everything flows from love.

With love at its core, true self-worth is humble — it has nothing to prove. True self-worth is limitless — nothing holds it back. True self-worth is full of gratitude and joy. True self-worth is resilient to all of life’s challenges.

I promised myself over 30 years ago to find out why I was unhappy. And I kept my promise.

Because I am worth it.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

self-esteem-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

The surprising truth about self-confidence

And how to regain yours in 10 steps

The more I talk to my friends and clients, the more I realize a sad truth.

That most of us often lack self-confidence.

Yet, if you ask people if they lack self-confidence, especially strong, accomplished people, they’ll probably answer no. Not because they’re in denial about it. But because they can’t see it.

You don’t often see that you’ve lost your self-confidence, as this loss manifests as something else. You see that you’re overwhelmed, that you’re stuck, that you’re a bit lost. You don’t realise that these are just symptoms. And that the problem behind them is a loss of self-confidence.

Lack of self-confidence is at the root of all feelings of being overwhelmed and stuck.

If you are full of self-confidence, you know what you can and can’t handle. You do what you can yourself, and hand off the rest to someone else. There’s no loss of face, you’re just being efficient.

If, however, you lack self-confidence, what you can’t handle overshadows everything, and it’s this that causes overwhelm. When you’re overwhelmed, you can’t see a way forward, so you get stuck. Being stuck for any length of time affects how you view yourself. You start to feel that you’re good for nothing, and this makes you feel even more overwhelmed, even more stuck.

When you reach this place, your self-esteem takes a beating. People often use self-confidence and self-esteem interchangeably, but, for me, there’s an important distinction between the two.

Self-confidence is your outer layer of self-reliance. Self-esteem, on the other hand, is your internal sense of worth.

When you can’t keep up your external self-confidence, external things can start to fall apart – you miss deadlines, you let people down, you limit your activities. But, when you don’t feel your internal worth any more, when you have no self-esteem, YOU start to fall apart.

Self-confidence is the cornerstone of self-esteem. That’s why it’s so important to deal with the self-confidence crisis whenever it strikes.

What can you do?

Here are 10 steps to help you start regaining your self-confidence.

  1. The minute you feel overwhelmed, stop. Don’t make any important decisions. Don’t take on any more change. (I wrote this post about overwhelm.)
  2. Dig deep into your feelings of overwhelm. When did they start? What triggered them?
  3. Dig deep into what triggered them. Was your behaviour behind it? Was someone else’s reaction to you behind it?
  4. Accept what happened (the trigger). This doesn’t mean you have to be happy about what happened. You just have to accept that it did actually happen. And then you have to acknowledge any feelings that you may have about it, and allow yourself to express them, when you are somewhere safe and secure. That may involve punching pillows, if one of your feelings is anger. Or crying until you have no more tears, if one of your feelings is grief or sadness. Fully expressed feelings dissipate. Unexpressed feelings get stronger and stronger, until one day, they erupt uncontrollably.
  5. Let the trigger incident go. Like acceptance, letting go is an important behaviour to understand and adopt. And, like acceptance, it’s a hard behaviour to understand and adopt! Letting go of something or someone doesn’t mean that you are OK with the situation or person. It just means that you are letting go of the control ALL of this has over you. It’s not an angry notion. I like to think of letting go as releasing something/someone into a flow of love, and respectfully keeping your distance. Practice really does make perfect, and it’s well worth the effort.
  6. Know exactly what you have to get done. Make a detailed list of everything that was causing you to feel overwhelmed. This is your TO DO list.
  7. Prioritise what you have to do. Review all items on your TO DO list, and prioritize them according to their importance. I like to have three categories: Must Do, Maybe Do and Nice To Do.
  8. Do your Must Dos every day. You should start to notice you feel better about yourself after successfully ticking off these for a few days.
  9. Add your Maybe Dos to your weekly routine. Do this whenever you’re feeling in a good place, with some energy to spare.
  10. Add your Nice To Dos to your monthly routine. By the time you have the energy to get to these, your self-confidence and self-esteem will be much healthier.

The sense of self-reliance that goes with self-confidence is essential to our ability to function, day in, day out. The sense of self-worth that goes with self-esteem is essential to our happiness.

Let’s make nurturing these in ourselves our top priority! Because without them, we are no good to ourselves or others.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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Courage and action

Sit down, close your eyes, and think about making life changes. Emotions rise immediately in your body – some, the stuff of nightmares; others, more pleasant.

Fear.

Overwhelm.

Excitement.

Panic.

Despair.

Pleasure.

Anxiety.

Whichever emotions arise, one truth guides them. That life change requires courage and action, in equal measure.

The minute you decide to take that step towards making a life change, YOU change. That’s the courage. The belief in yourself that you CAN do it. Courage rises in you. No one else can give it to you or help you get it. It’s yours and yours alone. It comes from within.

But all the courage in the world isn’t going to make your life change happen. Only action will do that. You have to take steps forward, away from your old life, and towards your new life.

This is where most people fall down. They think that they’ve done the hard part, that the summoning up of courage in itself will see them through this life change. But they’re wrong. Only action will do that. One-foot-in-front-of-the-other action.

Unlike courage, action needn’t to come from within. You can get help with it. You have to take the action, but others can help you along the way. They can help you in all sorts of ways: clarify your goals; define the steps needed; provide you with systems and tools; hold you accountable; cheer you on; hold your hand; celebrate your accomplishments.

Courage and action. They are in our nature. But, other than in exceptional circumstances when we’re spurred into fight or flight mode, we’ve been distanced from them. We’ve forgotten that courage and action are two of our innate values. Values which we need to bring back into the fold, because we really need them.

We need courage and action because life change is the only way to move forward.

And moving forward is what makes us grow.

Moving forward makes us better versions of ourselves. Less fearful. More self-confident. Happier. More self-fulfilled.

And isn’t this what truly living is all about?

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).