Without realising we have, as individuals, developed a way of assessing our self worth in the world based on our experiences as we have grown.
These experiences lead us to rank ourselves, comparing who we are to others, even berating and torturing ourselves for not being good enough. Sometimes this leads to serious mental health issues or, on the other end of the scale, massive ego trips bordering on arrogance and detachment.
As babies we come into the world where self is all we know. As a child grows a sense of individuality becomes more apparent but in a way so unique that it’s like a finger print. So lets explore how this sense of self is influenced.
Being happy with yourself linguistically means there are 2 of you inside your head. This doesn’t mean you are losing your marbles, it’s quite normal to have a few of you in there, chattering away, debating this and that and in this case, one making a judgement on the other. So this leads us to ask whose yardstick is being used to make that judgement call.
It’s true to say that to be happy with yourself means a set of criteria must be met. This criteria will have been formed over many years, influenced by parents, friends, family, teachers, the TV, icons etc… and of course social media! I’m not going to go off on a rant about how TikTok is ruling the lives of young people because like all forms of influence it’s just symptomatic.
So how do we create the list of criteria, a tick box of values if you like, that means we can be happy with ourselves. These entrenched values are often formed during the early years where we grow up in a certain culture. For me I was taught to shower every day, put my make up on before I left the house, to be polite, put others before myself, work hard for a living etc. These values were taught to me in good faith by wonderful parents who had the best intentions. It carried on in school and at work and by the time I was 30 I was exhausted. I had forgotten who I was and felt run ragged, worthless and subservient to the needs of my children and partner. The tick box was floored!
I’m sure many people can relate to this situation since the tick box is quite generic, there were more specific values that encouraged the situation of course and we will all have our own individual version of important values but sometimes what others have taught us needs attention.
I’m not talking about throwing the baby out with the bath water but inviting you to take a look at what values no longer serve you, what values need a little tweak, and noting the ones you would like to keep. In order to be happy with yourself, it’s important to be honest about what works for you and what doesn’t. Life changes and circumstances change so its about getting the balance right and giving yourself permission to change.
Before we go any further I would like to introduce you something called the logical levels…
The Logical Levels:
- Beliefs and Values
This was taught to me when I was training in NLP and it helped me to understand the importance of my identity and the values and beliefs that supported my sense of self.
It’s essentially a list that works in every culture, in every business and inside every person.
On whatever level there is a problem it infects the level above and then cascades downwards causing in some cases absolute havoc.
So to explain it using my personal example of cascading down these levels…..
- I was intent on keeping my family safe, loved and looked after well (Purpose)
- I had forgotten who I was (Identity)
- I had a strong Belief/Value that I should put the needs of others, in this case my partner and children, before myself always (Beliefs and Values)
- I was too exhausted and could hardly drag myself out of bed in the mornings (Capability)
- Became irritable and grumpy (Behaviour)
- My Partner had been allowed to disrespect me and my relationship ended so I found myself living a tough life for a while as a single parent (Environment)
My problem was at Belief and Value level where I put the needs of others before myself to the extreme. So I caused a problem with my identity and the rest cascaded down.
The reason I’m showing you this is to highlight the importance of checking out your beliefs and values. Give yourself permission to change them if they don’t work for you or find someone who is qualified to help you do that.
For me I learned that my value of putting others before myself was at the expense of my wellbeing, self worth and self respect. Once I changed this then life got better; I gave myself the space and time to be happy with myself and who I am. I was then organically able to surround myself with people who did respect me and my children grew into wonderful, loveable humans and my purpose in this area was fulfilled.
Of course this is just my story but as I said, it’s unique, like a finger print.
The opinions of others
The other thing that seems to feature often is that life long question …‘What will other people think?’ (I call this external referencing). When we do this to the extreme we can find ourselves run ragged pleasing the world and ignoring what we truly think or feel about ourselves. When I work with clients I like to scale this in order to measure how much of this they do and give them the opportunity to adjust the scale so the opinions of others are useful, but not damaging to the detriment of being happy with themselves
It’s always useful to have a balance because when we operate from a complete standpoint of ‘It’s just fine with me’, where the opinions of others are not relevant (I call this internal referencing) then there is a danger of backlash. It doesn’t matter how the balance works as long as your sense of being happy with yourself is working at optimum.
For example, I once worked with a lovely young lady who came to see me because she was putting on weight. She would have lots of meals out with friends and work colleagues. She would eat everything on her plate even when she was full, drink more than she wanted and spend more money than she really wanted in order to prevent people thinking she was boring or ungrateful. Her friends would order drinks even when she hadn’t asked for them, order way too much food and encourage her to have second helpings. She would consume all of it to avoid the perceived criticism and at the expense of her health. I asked her if she was happy with herself and she most definitely was not. Unhappy with her weight, unhappy with her drinking habits, unhappy with her lack of ability to say no.
In the moment she had lost the ability to think for herself, make decisions based on what was good for her and even check in with herself during these social events.
So we looked at the balance. Out of a scale of 1-10 she was a 8 on the external referencing and a 2 on the internal referencing resulting in one unhappy lady lying in bed feeling ill afterwards.
So we tried a few options on ……
- 8 internal/ 2 external … No, she would see this as arrogant and uncaring
- 5 internal/ 5 external … No, this would make her still unhappy with the drinking
- 6 internal/ 4 external … this worked perfectly, allowing her to not only say no to the extra food, she would say she was full, and to also tell them she didn’t want that extra top up of wine. She would join in with the social evenings now and saying “no” seemed a lot easier than she thought now that she could feel happier with herself as a wonderful pay off.
It may seem like the obvious solution but when you have habitually focused on the feedback of others its hard to notice the difference until you experience it like this. As far as I know she’s doing fine now, successful in her career, having a great social life and spending a lot less!
Whose voice is that in my head?
During these kind of NLP sessions clients often tell me of that nagging voice that scuppers any attempts to feel good about themselves. It tells them they are useless, fat, unattractive, unworthy etc and delivers general negative dialogue that prevents them being happy with themselves. Sad but true and I think we can all relate to that one!
These voices in our heads are often other people, parents, teachers, the school bully, the ex or maybe just critical versions of ourselves. We keep them close because believe it or not there is always a positive intention for doing that! The immediate reaction is to want to banish this voice that causes all the lack of confidence and self worth, however it will just come back if the positive intention is not honoured.
So lets be curious …… try this with me now.
We will start with making friends with that voice in your head to find out why it’s here. The location of the voice and often it’s really close. Using your imagination, move the voice a bit further away and then round to being right in front of you so that a conversation can be had.
For some of you this might seem a little crazy but trust me it works! The number of times I hear wow that’s my Father, or that’s my old teacher from primary school. You will have kept this annoying dialogue there because it serves a good purpose. From here on in we can ask it questions and get to the nub of it and more often than not it’s about inciting action through fair means or foul. To perhaps inspire motivation, more awareness or even to keep someone safe. See what comes up when you ask it nicely what its intention is.
Once you have established this then these great resources can be harnessed in nicer ways. Strangely the voice usually pipes down when you do this or you can turn it off metaphorically like turning off the car radio.
It’s a weird process I know but it’s so amazing and if you need some help then find a good NLP practitioner and they can guide you through the process. If it means being truly happy with yourself afterwards then it’s definitely worth exploring.
So if you were happy with yourself…
- How would you know?
- What would you be saying?
- What would it look like?
Answers on a post card please… no, only joking!