‘I know who I was when I got up this morning but I think I must have changed many times since then’ Alice in Wonderland.
Who are we?
How do we define ourselves?
How do we stay true to our personal beliefs and values to unlock our personal power and achieve our goals?
In reality we are all on a journey for the best life we can have, like a magical quest for the true ring. This means that we achieve more when we stay true to who we are.
We don't want to get delayed by the shiny, right? However in life there are often things that come up to knock us off track.
In this blog I uncover 5 tips drawn from evidence based psychology approaches to self assertiveness and identity to get you back to where you want to be despite life's pitfalls.
1) It's a really good plan to avoiding comparing yourself to other people. There is only one of you - and for good reason. We are all special in our own right and in a world of fast growing media where we can see everything - from what people are having for dinner to the most complicated yoga position to get into - it is easy to fall into that cultural trap of comparing ourself to others.
When you feel yourself starting to compare yourself to others remind yourself that you don't really know what is going on for them, they might look all shiny on the outside but people are more complex than they seem outwardly. You have your own path to walk and impression in life to make - stay true to that!
2) Address any pesky thoughts coming in. If you find yourself thinking 'what will they think of me?'.... recognise that this is a negative thought which can lead to feeling anxious and a drop in how you feel about yourself. When we care what other people think of us then in some respects this gives them power over us. We can then start behaving in ways that we think they will like but which do not necessarily sit true with us.
A way to address is to use assertive thoughts. When the thought comes in 'what will they think of me? ' you can counteract it with a thought like a tug of war with 'I wish that person to like me, think well of me - and I can work towards it - but I do not necessarily need their approval.' Use thoughts that will metaphorically help you to win that tug of war and move you across to the side that will bring you more self esteem and personal power.
3) Define your identity on your own terms. It's worth thinking to yourself how much input do other people in your life have in defining your identity? Are they supporting you or working against you? It is important to recognise those people who will respect you for who you are no matter what. You can then surround yourself with more people like this! Who is the person that is lifting you up?
Even though you have respect from others it does not mean that you always have to agree with them. The skill of assertiveness comes in here. You have the right to stand up for what you believe in and not give up what is important to you to fit in with others. This works both ways too and healthy relationships means that you respect others on their own terms too!
4) Increase emotional intelligence by recognising and managing feelings that can get in the way of who you are. One of the reasons identity can be tricky is that we are worried about others and difficult feelings can get in the way. See if any of these are familiar.
Fear of disapproval. So at this point it is important to have a flexible belief that you don’t need approval – does anyone have universal approval? Emmeline Pankhurst as a Suffragette - did she need approval?
Concern about being rejected. This is not going to sound very popular as a strategy but by building immunity to worries that you are going to be rejected means you can cope with it better and in turn you increase your tolerance threshold. How do we do this? Well the only way forward is just to do it anyway and if others reject you because of it then in the bigger scheme of things then the sky will not fall in.
It's a bit like when you get into a new gym routine it's uncomfortable for a time until you get used to it.
Feeling guilty for putting your needs forward. If you keep negating yourself in favour of others resentment will build up, it also teaches others that your needs can be ignored or taken for granted. People aren't mind readers. So actually the way to promote a more positive view of your worth it to put your needs forward. It can feel like when we put our interests forward that we are responsible for managing the ensuing feelings of the other person. However you are not responsible for the other person's feelings and if you don't think they can handle it then you are not having enough respect that they have the ability to manage them.
In fact open and honest communication for harmonious relationships is all about being able to be honest. A caviat to this it to ensure you check in with your intent and you also take into account the other person's need. One of the fantastic psychologists who trained me always used to say 'life is a compromise'. Don't go pushing your needs forward to such an extent it feels like you are pushing the other person into the lake but feel good about being able to get your needs met!!
Have a think about why you are expressing your needs to ensure your intent is honourable. If you are honest with others then you build up trust and this in turn helps you to be clear about who you are and what you are about.
5) Give yourself a passport to a new you!
What happens when things are going well is we tend to feel good about ourselves, our self esteem is higher. When our circumstances change depending on what it is we can feel our self perception go down hill. In a society where we tend to define ourselves by stereotypes - ie the job we have, how we are with our health, how much money we earn, our culture, our gender, our sexuality, how managers treat us at work, feedback from clients or even the clothes we wear - then it is easy to find our self worth going down as we perceive the worst.
One way to ensure that even when things change we can go with the flow is to move away from self critism and negatively rating ourselves and move towards self acceptance. If you think back to the time when the idea of 'downsizing' first came in and think how this was trendy! Earning less, living within our resources, having values linked to the importance of time with our children rather than the importance of financial gain..this was all totally acceptable. I am that old I remember the 80s where the size of your car or your shoulder pads (yep if you don't remember those you can look them up!!) linked to success.
So a really good exercise I do as a coach with my coachees is to ask the question what belief would have to change for our self esteem to increase right now?
You can ask yourself these questions:
What is good about you?
What qualities do you have?
What are your strengths?
What do friends say they like about you?
What does your manager comment on that is positive?
What are the lovely comments your children say about you or your clients?
Take all these positives and add them up until you can start with a new passport to self acceptance of all your strengths. So if you think to yourself things are hard right now but essentially I am a good parent, I have lots of support from friends and I have a load of skills then your belief will increase that you have enough in your life to be able to cope. Self esteem will increase and you will be taking a potentially negative situation and emerging from it - like the butterfly (mariposa) with your passport to a new identity.
I hope that this blog has been helpful and you are reflecting on how you see yourself and whether there are changes that you wish to make right now. In essence changing who we are can be transformative but this starts with how we perceive ourselves, how we use performance enhancing thinking rather than negative thinking and how we use our assertive skills to be open and honest about what we want from others.
I had fun trying out the different looks for this blog (photos at the top) but unlocking our potential is more than just how we look!
Mariposa is Spanish for butterfly and I chose the name to encapsulate what I do and one area of this is to coach people through change for the identity they want!
If you would like to have a coaching session to work on an area mentioned in this article please get in touch.