Posts Tagged: guilt

Improve Your Self Confidence: Key Ingredients to Healthy Self Esteem

Do you ever wish you could be more confident, more self assured? Do you with that you didn’t doubt yourself, your abilities, your value, or your place in the world? We all know that healthy self-esteem is important to healthy relationships and happiness, but if you struggle with self-confidence, you may not know how to improve it.

This, and the next two posts will address:

  1. How Healthy Self Esteem is encouraged in children, and the key ingredeints we all need for healthy psychological development.
  2. How to Improve an injuered sense of self through routine psychological exercises.
  3. How to Recover your self-confidence after a toxic relationship.

Let’s start by asking yourself these questions:

Do you…

  • Feel less talented, attractive, intelligent, successful than most people?
  • Compare yourself to others often, wondering how you rank?
  • Beat yourself up after simple mistakes, oversites, or embarrassing moments?
  • Talk to yourself like you’re the worst person on earth?
  • Struggle with toxic shame and guilt?
  • Feel responsible for other people’s happiness?
  • Rehearse to ad nauseam self-criticisms?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may have a wounded sense of self, or in other words, a poor self-esteem. 

Understanding Self Esteem

Self Esteem is developed in children over a period of time by way of three factors: 1) Positive regard and affirmation from family of origin, 2) Attainment of Skills and Competencies, and 3) Acceptance by Peers. That’s the short answer, but there is actually a lot that goes in to building one’s self-esteem. Here’s the deets.

1)     Positive Regard and Family Affirmation: Esteem deposits drop into a child’s core self through consistent affirmation, guidance, love and discipline from parents. Parents and care-givers don’t have to be perfect, they just need to be good enough- guiding, loving, listening, correcting and encouraging their children. However, if the environment is over bearing, coddling, overly critical, emotionally unsafe or unpredictable, the child could develop some serious ego wounds. If, for example, a mother rarely lets her son do hard things for himself, he will likely grow up believing he is incapable of overcoming challenges. On the other hand, if a father is overly critical of a child who works hard, the child will grow to feel like her best is never good enough. One caveat here: there are some adults who grew up in a loving and supportive home and who developed a positive self-esteem, however during adulthood, encountered something so negative, traumatic or abusive, that over time, their self esteem was injured. People in toxic work, marriage or cult environments who start out confident and self-assured, can be so afflicted by persistent, deliberate psychological abuse that the self-esteem injury can take years to heal. 

2)     Attainment of Skills and Competencies: Just as important to building self-esteem, is consistent mastery of developmental tasks. As the child grows in emotional self-regulation, physical maturation, and attainment of new skills, he/she will be confident to try new things. As the child experiments with music, sports, building things, drama, art, animals, etc, the child will discover natural talents and gain in proficiencies. When a child feels he is good at something, his self-esteem rises. If a child is not encouraged or allowed to become competent in his interests, or is steered toward something he is not good at or interested in, his self-esteem will struggle.

3)     Acceptance by Peers: By ages 10, 11, and 12 the voice of the peer group begins to speak louder than the parents. Children who are generally accepted by their peers will glean self-esteem through the adolescent years from the feedback they are getting from their peers. If they feel excluded, like they don’t fit in, or in the worst case, bullied, then their self esteem can take a big hit. Many teens who didn’t succeed socially, will do so in young adulthood, thereby repairing the damage to their self-esteem. If not, a child could grow up feeling socially inadequate, anxious in social situations, and generally undesirable.

If you are well past your 20s you may think the Self Esteem Ship has sailed, and that if you didn’t develop a healthy self-esteem when you were younger, it’s too late for you. The great news, is that it’s not too late. You can work on your self-esteem at any stage in life and achieve the confidence you need to set boundaries, to resolve conflict, to achieve deeper intimacy, and pursue big goals.

With the right people, practice and positivity, you can change that pesky sense of self-doubt once and for all. Now that we’ve talked about what goes into the development of healthy self- confidence, we are ready to learn the basics of IMPROVING self-confidence. Next week, I will be offering 6 Simple Ways to Improve Self Confidence. Talk to you next week!




Don’t Read This if You’re Going to Feel Guilty

Psychologists who study human behavior know that motivation is best understood on a continuum. On one side of the continuum is pleasure and on the other side is pain. At a primitive level, humans are motivated to avoid pain and achieve pleasure.

 I believe we do some things (maybe a lot of things) out of a sense of guilt. I hear people say, “Well, I’ll feel bad if I don’t do _____________,” or “If I tell him the truth, his feelings will be hurt…. And then I’ll feel so bad,” or “I better do ___________ because they’d think I was a ____________ if I didn’t.” They think that if that doing something to avoid guilt, they will be avoiding the pain. But the pain is just delayed. It always catches up.

When Sweet and Sassy were in elementary school, the pressure to be a volunteer was mounting. Holiday Party sign ups were the worst. The other moms (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!) brought Easter watermelons carved into flowers, and Halloween cheese balls that looked like brains with crackers that looked like spiders, and Coconut sprinkled snowmen that were too cute to eat. I brought wrapped cheese sticks in a Safeway bag. Boom! I figured the real reason I was there was to make the other moms feel good about themselves.

Anyway, one of the main reasons I even went to these parties so I wouldn’t feel guilty for missing it.

This is more my style...

This is more my style…

I’m here to admit that I will still do things in order to avoid the guilt that would accompany NOT doing them. But I’m fully aware what’s motivating me, and that is sometimes half the battle.

Being aware of the WHY you are doing something gives you more power the next time of whether you do it at all. Once you call it what it is, you have power over it.

Remember Adam in the garden of Eden? He was in charge of naming the animals, and then he was given dominion over every living thing he named. Same thing here. When you and I can name our Motivation- THE WHY- we can have dominion over it. Here are some “For Examples:”

  • I yell at my kids because I feel out of control
  • I drink  at night because I’m stressed/depressed.
  • I don’t exercise because I feel I’m too far gone.
  • I have difficulty setting a boundary with someone because I don’t want them to be mad or disappointed in me.
  • I do __________________  so others will think I’m a good person.
  • I Read this blog so Michelle won’t think nobody reads her blog. (I put that in there for giggles.)

If you’re doing something in order to avoid pain or to achieve pleasure, or simply not to feel “bad,” then call it what it is and sit with that for a minute. Then determine if you’d like to keep on doing it. 

If you read this blog because you’ll feel guilty if you don’t, or disloyal, or whatever, then STOP reading it RIGHT AWAY! That goes for anything that you’re doing out of guilt. Doing things out of guilt steals our life-blood like a leech on a plump fanny. But if you read this blog because you feel inspired and connectivity and energy- and because it brings you pleasure, then keep on.

“This lady keeps feeding me, so I keep coming back!”

When we do things out of love and passion instead of guilt and obligation, God’s in it. His love makes more love. His blessing makes more blessing. But doing things out of guilt and fear breads more guilt and fear. Like rats in London. Like rabbits in a garden. Like rampant baby vampires that want to suck you dry of anything good.

How about you? How have you stopped guilt motivated activities? What do you do instead with your time and energy? I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers to the Guilt-Free Freedom Fighters, the Mavens of Motivation, the Princess of Passion and the Sojourners of Love!

if Shame is a Bank Account, it’s Trauma that Makes Deposits

Thank God we are getting smarter about Shame and Trauma. In recent years, the mental health field has given much needed attention to the affects of trauma and it’s after math condition of shame. People like Dan Siegel, Peter Levine, and Brene Brown have brought needed attention to these debilitating forces. But today, I want to help you see how they work together.

If you’ve been reading recent blog posts, you know that Soul Holes are unavoidable. We all carry them around with us. Soul Holes are emotional wounds that occur as a result of not being seen, known or unconditionally accepted. Each Soul Hole is a trauma to the body, the heart, the mind. 

Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience, and is experienced differently by each person. What one person sees as disturbing, wounding or traumatic, another person may not depending on environment, ego strength, resiliency factors, and genetics. 

There are different kinds of Traumas. There are Super T Traumas and Little t Traumas.

Super T Traumas are what you’d think, and people usually know that they’ve experienced something traumatic.

  • Parental death or abandonment
  • Parental Divorce
  • Sexual, physical, emotional abuse from a trusted family member, friend or stranger
  • Parental Addictions
  • Racial prejudice 
  • Sibling/Peer bullying without intervention
  • Violence or witnessing violence
  • Severe accidents or medical treatments
  • Religious control, abuse or manipulation
  • The threat of death

Little t Traumas are a bit trickier. Little t Traumas are anything less than nurturing. Persistent little t traumas that occur as a result of not being seen, known or unconditionally loved over the course of time can reach Super Trauma status. 

Little t Trauma examples: 

  • Critical words
  • Controlling attitudes
  • Inconsistent, un-involved parenting
  • Shaming statements, guilt tactics
  • Angry outbursts
  • Indiscretions, inappropriate expectations
  • Meeting childhood pain with un-empathetic stress or anger.
  • Emotionally absent parents

Traumas Make Deposits into the Shame and Guilt Accounts.

Shame and guilt are two of the most common and difficult emotions to treat when healing traumatic Soul Holes. Shame is often present in sexual abuse, childhood abuse and events that encompass death of another, eg. survivor guilt Shame and guilt are core feelings that eat away a person, constantly provoking Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

Guilt says, “I’ve done something wrong.

Shame says, “There is something wrong with me.”

Both Shame and guilt are present in those who have experienced Super T traumas and Little t Traumas because people mistakenly believe

  1. they could have or should have done something to avoid the trauma or abuse
  2. they did something to deserve or provoke the trauma or abuse
  3. there is something uniquely wrong with them on the inside that makes them different and less-than other people.

If you feel this way, you are not alone! These are common feelings of those who’ve experience Super T and Little t traumas. What’s more, there is HOPE.

Trauma and grief counselors are equipped with tools to help you through the negative emotional and physical results of trauma. Your Soul Holes can be filled. Stay tuned! Next week, I’ll help you with creative ways on how to address negative feelings.

Pick an Age Already!

This morning, I told my face to pick an age. Any age. Just pick one. I said, “Face, if you’re going to be 40, then I’ll live with wrinkles. But if you’re going to be 15, then I’ll live with pimples. But what I’m not willing to tolerate any longer is BOTH at the SAME TIME! So Pick an Age!”

Seriously. Wrinkles and pimples should not appear on the same face at the same time. It’s unreasonable!

An enlightened face would know better. But mine is confused. Should it be adolescent, or mature? Should it be vibrant or subdued? Should it be young and shiny, or old and saggy? It’s a conundrum.

A perfect complexion is just one of the many disillusions of turning 40. About a month ago, I was singing the praises of 40. I was full on into welcoming the big four zero with open arms. I was pretty sure that the things that plagued me in my thirties would magically disappear overnight.

Things like caring what other people think, comparing myself with “perfect” people, feeling guilty about eating bad stuff, feeling guilty everything. 40 was going to be magical! 40 was going to be care free. 40 was going to be epic!

Michelle at 40 would look in the mirror every day and say, “Damn, I’m hot!” Michelle at 40 would affectionately pat the fat roll around her middle and say, “I never want to live without you.” Michelle at 40 would say what she really meant and not obsess later that it offended someone. Michelle at 40 would know what she wanted to be when she grew up! Michelle at 40 was going to ROCK!

So, when the alarm sounded on the morning of April 30th, I readied myself for my radical transformation. Cautiously opening one eye, after the other, pushing my body out of the bed, I expected nothing less than greatness! I will have arrived. Finally. 

But what really happened the morning I turned 40, was an emerging painful bump on the tip of my chin. Nooooo! Really? 40 year-olds shouldn’t have zits, is this some kind of joke? 

And all the other magical stuff didn’t happen either. The guilt-complex, the jealousy, the obsessive maniacal over-thinking, the cursing of the muffin top- it was all still there. I think I’m going to be stuck with my adolescent self forever. I like her enough, she’s fun and sweet and has rocking big hair, but she has all those adolescent insecurities. I was just hoping, that, you know, I could outgrow her. And become… conflict free.

Doesn’t that sound nice? Always sure of yourself. Always confident. Always pimple free. YES!

Back to reality.

So, instead of being disappointed that I didn’t magically morph into a grown up,  I’m going to embrace my yin and my yang, my strengths and my weaknesses, my wrinkles and my pimples. I’m going to validate the struggle that’s inside of me as good and necessary. I’m going to embrace the insecure part of me that wonders “am I ok just the way I am?” and the brash part that says, “Hell yes, now kick some tail!” Turning 40 doesn’t mean the inner conflict goes away. It means you just learn to hold all the parts of yourself with acceptance.

Ok, I’ll take some of that. And some benzoil peroxide too, please.

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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