Category Archives: Self-Esteem

Critical Thoughts and Anger

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Angry woman on the phoneAre you a critical person?  Do you have a tendency to look at others – and life – with a “glass half empty” attitude?  Are you someone who is never happy because you always find things to fault about the people and situations in your life, including yourself?

How do you feel about anger?  Are you someone who readily expresses your anger and sometimes has a hard time controlling it?  Or are you a person who is very uncomfortable with anger, such that you can’t really remember being angry at anyone?  Do you confine your angry feelings only toward yourself because that feels more safe and comfortable?

Our Critical Thoughts…

I recently completed the exercises in Chapter 5 of the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.”  This chapter is titled, “Critical Thinking” and explores the tendency we all have to be judgmental and critical toward others and ourselves.  The exercises focus on our beliefs and practices related to critical thoughts and the acknowledgment and expression of emotions, including the often controversial feeling of anger.

I’ve decided to focus this week’s post on the topics of criticism and anger.  I will share some of Louise Hay’s thoughts on these topics, as well as my reactions and insights from the Chapter 5 exercises.

Louise Hay on Criticism

Most of us have such a strong tendency to judge and criticize that we often don’t even realize when we’re doing it. Louise Hay believes that we will never be able to really love ourselves until we go beyond the need to make others, ourselves and life itself wrong.  Since loving ourselves is the key to overcoming all of the problems in our lives according to Louise’s philosophy, releasing the need to criticize is a very important step in the healing process.

Criticism breaks down the inner spirit and never changes a thing!  In contrast, praise builds up the spirit and can help to bring about positive change.

I Criticize Myself For…

One of the Chapter 5 exercises directs us to write down two ways in which we criticize ourselves related to the area of love and intimacy.  Below is what I wrote…

I criticize myself for _____ :

  1. …Attracting narcissistic and needy people for whom it’s “all about them.”  In these relationships, I feel like I am there for them, but they are not there for me.
  2. …Not being able to express myself the way I’d like to in relationships.  I want to foster increased intimacy with people, but I find myself unable to communicate in the right way to do this.

I Praise Myself For…

We are then directed to write about two things for which we can praise ourselves in the area of love and intimacy.  My examples were:

I praise myself for ____ :

  1. …Being able to attract a wonderful partner and grow together over the years.  We have a great relationship and I am very proud of that.
  2. …Not settling for sub-par friendships and relationships just so I’m not alone.  While I wish I had more connections in my life, I am glad that I haven’t held on to the needy and narcissistic friendships.

The purpose of the above exercise was to break the habit of criticism and learn to praise ourselves.  Through this simple example, I could definitely see that self-praise was infinitely more empowering than self-criticism. With the criticism, I backed myself into a corner of negativity.  With praise, I created more possibility and power in the present moment and for the future.  I also learned that when you look for something, you can find it.  While my natural tendency has been to look for things to criticize, it is just as easy to find things to praise when that is your focus.  Try it and you’ll see that it’s true!

Louise Hay on Anger

Anger is a natural and normal emotion, yet many of us have learned that it’s not nice, polite, or acceptable to be angry. Consequently, we learn to “swallow” our angry feelings.  These feelings then settle into our bodies and, over time, they can mount into the type of resentment which contributes to aches and pains and even serious diseases.   Some of the conditions which Louise Hay believes stem from anger include bursitis, carpal-tunnel syndrome, cellulite, cold sores, depression, jaw problems, kidney stones, and sore throats.  Long-term unexpressed anger can even lead to illnesses as serious as cancer!

We need to learn to acknowledge and express all of our feelings, including anger, in positive and healthy ways. But first it’s helpful to explore our family patterns around anger and our own history of dealing with angry feelings.  In many families, anger is frowned upon.  Many people either suppress their angry feelings completely or deal with them through addictive or avoidant behaviors.   Some people only express their anger when it builds up to a crescendo and then they explode in an unproductive manner.   They are like a pressure cooker in that they only show their anger when it builds up to the point where they can no longer stand it.

What Me, Angry?

I have never been comfortable with anger, either my own or that of others.  For most of my life, I denied even having any angry feelings toward anyone besides myself.  I often felt angry toward myself, mostly because I was unable to live up to my own high standards, and I expressed that anger by starving myself, binging and purging, and engaging in other destructive behaviors.  I also suffered from depression for much of my life, a condition which has frequently been termed “anger turned inward.”

In recent years, I have become more comfortable with having feelings of anger, yet I continue to struggle with appropriately expressing those feelings.  I now acknowledge that I have a right to be angry, but it still doesn’t feel safe to reveal that emotion to most of the people in my life.  This is an area of growth for me.  I want to increase the level of closeness in my current relationships, as well as develop empowering new connections.  Being “real” and communicating honestly are keys to our experiencing true intimacy in our relationships.

Anger – Not the Bogeyman!

The ability to express all emotions in a direct and mature way can help us to become closer to our loved ones.  Anger is not the bogeyman that many of us have believed it to be.  It is in our best interest to make peace with anger.  To aid in that effort, here are a few closing affirmations from Louise Hay:

  • Anger is normal and natural.”
  • I am safe with all of my emotions.”
  • I allow myself freedom with all my emotions, including anger.”
  • Healthy expressions of anger keep me healthy.”

Messages From Pain

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I usually try to be upbeat in these blog posts, but today I need to rant about a frustrating ongoing challenge…  As I write this, I am suffering from my ninth migraine headache this month! I just had a migraine on Wednesday and I am so frustrated that I am afflicted with yet another one just two days later.

I track my migraines and have found that my monthly average is seven to eight headaches.  They vary in terms of severity, so I am not always completely debilitated by the pain, but it does adversely affect my life in a multitude of ways.  Since I’ve been living with migraines for 25 years now, I’ve learned to adapt and do as much as I can through the pain.  Yet, although I am able to “grin and bear it” for much of the time, I am more than ready to release this dreaded condition.

Many Potential Remedies, No Lasting Solution

Over the years, I’ve tried many, many potential remedies to become free of these devastating, throbbing headaches.  I’ve taken numerous prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, tried bottle after bottle of supplements, eliminated various foods from my diet, and visited a long list of medical professionals, both traditional and alternative.  There have been pockets of relief along the way, but these reprieves have been short-lived at best.  My migraines are like a broken record that keeps playing its tired song over and over again, month after month, and year after year.

I’ve mentioned a “laundry list” of health issues that I am working to heal through my healing project.  Some of these challenges have cycled in and out of my life, while others plague me for only a short time period before miraculously disappearing just as quickly and mysteriously as they materialized.  But the one problem which has accompanied me on my life path since the age of eighteen has been the migraines.  So I’m guessing that the lesson I need to learn from this tired and tireless ailment is the most important one of all!  The Universe keeps literally rapping me over the head because I continue to fail to get the message!

Louise Hay’s Views on Migraines

What does the abundantly wise Louise Hay say about migraines?  When I read these excerpts from “You Can Heal Your Life”, I wonder how she could know me so well when we haven’t even met:

“Migraine headaches are created by people who want to be perfect and who create a lot of pressure on themselves.”

“Dislike of being driven.  Resisting the flow of life.”

If you were to look up “perfectionist” and “control freak” in the dictionary, you would see… my picture!  I’m kidding, of course, but that’s not far from the truth.  I have tried to relax and go with the flow more in life, but I’ve found it difficult to change this aspect of my personality.  I’m the type of person who writes a lot of lists and tries to pack as many tasks as possible into a given day.  Despite these practices, I never feel I accomplish enough and am riddled with self-doubt and fears of failure.  I often speak of myself in derogatory terms and find it hard to let myself off the hook when I don’t live up to my self-defined expectations.

My healing project is helping me to become more aware of my thoughts and my self-talk.  It is now clear to me that not only am I extremely hard on myself; it comes with a very high price – my health.  I realize that my migraines and other health challenges are a type of spiritual “kick in the pants” to show me how important it is for me to change.

Headaches and Invalidating the Self

When writing about headaches in general, Louise Hay states the following:

“Headaches come from invalidating the self.  The next time you get a headache, stop and ask yourself where and how you have just made yourself wrong.  Forgive yourself, let it go, and the headache will dissolve back into the nothingness from where it came.”

My problem is that I make myself wrong for the same “offenses” over and over again.  I beat myself up for the lack of material success in my life, for not living up to my potential, for not being a good wife (or family member or friend), and for a number of other affronts I’ve committed toward those in my life, myself, and even God.  I often feel that I’ve wasted my God-given talents by being indecisive and not sticking with a singular career path.  I also feel guilty for not being sufficiently grateful for the many blessings in my life and for continuing to dwell on insignificant things like the size of my thighs and the frizziness of my hair.

The Inner Tyrant…

My critical inner voice is like an unrelenting tyrant.  I once had a school assignment to keep track of negative self-talk for a day.  I’m sure I didn’t capture all of it, but what I did write down was mind-boggling.  My ratio of positive to negative messages is abysmal.  Once in a while, a compliment manages to make its way into my mind, but it is quickly drowned by the sea of criticism surrounding it.

I invalidate myself all of the time – and it’s killing me.  As I write this, I am fully present to the cost of my “stinkin’ thinking.”  Something’s gotta give!  I need to forgive myself, start talking much more nicely to myself (I’ve improved in recent months, but I’ve done some backsliding as of late), and treat myself with more respect and kindness.  I wouldn’t wish my internal negativity on my worst enemy!

Resisting Meditation and Silence

I’ve recently been reading the best-selling memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I loved reading about her indulgence and enjoyment in Italy, but found myself less enthralled by her time of reflection, meditation, and silence in India.  I could in no way picture myself meditating for hours and hours each day or scrubbing floors as part of a “retreat.”  Although she was striving for inner peace and connection with the Divine, my thought was that it wasn’t worth the price of admission, especially without an iron-clad guarantee for results.

As I reached the end of the India section of the book, however, I experienced a change of heart.  I wondered what it would be like to live even one day (heck, even one hour) of my life without the constant inner chatter and self-recrimination.  I decided that I want that!  I know that there are many paths to peace and many roads to salvation.  My path may not be the same as Elizabeth Gilbert’s.  My path may not take me to an ashram in India.  I know that I may not even have to leave my hometown to reach the state of freedom I so profoundly desire.

Claiming my Freedom

It’s been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Perhaps my throwing my hands up in desperation tonight at yet another migraine is that step.  It’s possible that I am ready to forgive myself and let go of the need to be perfect – from this moment on.   Peace and freedom for me lie within, not without.  I just need to claim it…

Self-Acceptance

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I had intended to post much earlier in the week, but you know what they say about good intentions… This has been a difficult week for me, which probably means I should have been devoting more attention to my healing project, instead of virtually ignoring it for a number of days. In getting back on track today, I searched for an exercise from “You Can Heal Your Life” to complete and write about.  I was quickly drawn to the most appropriate exercise for me at this particularly point in time, the “Mirror Exercise” on page 35.

Simple Yet Not Easy…

The Mirror Exercise is extremely simple, yet not at all easy.  The straightforward instructions are:  look in a mirror and into your own eyes, speak your name, and say, “I love and accept you exactly as you are.”

Louise Hay asks each of her clients to do this exercise during their initial session with her.   She states that she has rarely had a calm reaction to her simple request.  On the contrary, some clients were brought to tears, while others became angry and refused to do the exercise.  One client even threw the mirror across the room!  Needless to say, it isn’t easy to proclaim love and acceptance for ourselves.

My Experience with the Mirror Exercise

During the height of beating myself up for what I felt was an unproductive week and an overall stagnation in my life, I decided to do this powerful exercise.  As I walked up to the mirror, I felt my heart pound loudly and a tingling sensation crawled up the sides of my body.  I also felt flushed despite the relatively cool temperature in the room.  My eyes welled up with tears before I even opened my mouth to speak the requisite words.   However, when I actually spoke the words, I did not feel sad or angry.  Instead, I felt a sense of peace and calm wash over my body.

It was a relief to affirm my acceptance and love for myself today and it really felt good for me to do it.  I know that in the past, it would have been very difficult for me to speak Louise Hay’s simple statement. I used to be far more invested in making myself wrong than in wanting to feel good about myself and my life. Although I still have a long way to go in terms of self-esteem and acceptance, I have made some definite progress in these areas.  It’s taken a lot of hard work and self-examination for me to get to the point where I am ready to accept and love myself.

Self-Acceptance is Empowering

Why is it empowering to declare love and acceptance toward ourselves?  Louise Hay asserts that the root of all human problems lies in not loving ourselves. Even if we can give ourselves a tiny bit of love during a brief mirror exercise, this can go a long way toward counteracting the negative messages we send ourselves on a regular basis.

Positive messages are far more powerful than negative messages, and even irregular empowering messages can serve to inoculate us against an onslaught of self-effacing thoughts.  I know this is true because I’ve been inwardly affirming “I approve of myself” as often as I remember to do so in recent months.  This simple action has helped me to become stronger and I am finding myself less compromised by sadness and depression than before I began this practice.

Acceptance Doesn’t Mean We Don’t Want to Change

To clarify, stating that we love and accept ourselves exactly as we are in a given moment does not mean that we don’t want to change anything about our circumstances. We may have a number of things we wish to change, as well as some powerful goals for the future.  The truth is that we are far more likely to achieve our goals and make successful changes when we begin from a space of self-acceptance.

Lasting transformation cannot be accomplished through brow-beating and self-effacement. A good example of this relates to weight loss.  I can remember many times when I would look at myself in the mirror, pinch my stomach and thighs, and use colorful adjectives like disgusting, ugly, and weak to describe myself. These debasements only served to make me feel much worse about myself and propel me to comfort myself with food, an action that was counterproductive for my weight loss goals.

I have had far better luck when I’ve treated myself with kindness.  If I start with self-acceptance and then move forward toward change, I am much more likely to be successful. If, instead of beating myself up and calling myself awful names, I dress in flattering clothing and do my best to look and feel attractive, the likelihood of my exercising and making good food choices is much greater.

Power in the Present Moment

One of the key principles of Louise Hay and many other spiritual teachers is that the point of power is always in the present moment.  In the here and now, we have a choice.  We can criticize ourselves or we can love and accept ourselves. One choice will lead us to feel weak and dis-empowered; the other choice will uplift and empower us.

As I stared into my eyes in the mirror and proclaimed my acceptance of myself, I experienced an energetic boost.  I was infused with power and strength to face the challenges of the day, along with a sense of calm and assurance that I can accomplish my goals for the future. This is far better than the metaphorical “air out of the tires” feeling I encountered each time I criticized myself for not meeting my impossibly high standards for acceptability.

My Challenge Moving Forward

My challenge now is to show myself more love and compassion than disdain and criticism. My task is to stop myself mid-criticism and switch to affirming self- acceptance and love.  My commitment is to know that I am enough, that I don’t have to be perfect in order to be loved by others – or by myself.

I close with a portion of a “spiritual treatment” from Louise Hay:

“In the infinity of life where I am, all is perfect, whole and complete.  I am always divinely protected and guided… It is safe for me to enlarge my viewpoint of life.  I am far more than my personality – past, present, or future.  I now choose to rise above my personality problems to recognize the magnificence of my being.  I am totally willing to learn to love myself.  All is well in my world.”

The Tyranny of Shoulds

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We all have a voice inside of our heads which tries to tell us what to do, how to act, and who to be.   Sometimes this voice is productive, such as when it moves us out of inertia and into action. The voice can also help us to do the right thing, even when the right thing is not the easiest or fastest thing to do.  That is the positive side of the voice…

The Dark Side of Our Inner Voice

However, the voice can also be counterproductive or even destructive. It can be so ubiquitous in its presence that we are unable to experience even a moment of peace.  It can relentlessly order us to be productive in each and every moment, to always put the needs and wants of others above our own needs, and to prove our worthiness through action many times each day.

The dark side of the voice is where “should” often resides. Have you ever heard the expression, to “should” on yourself?  The mental imagery evoked is apropos in that this application of should is akin to showering ourselves with garbage (or worse…).

A War Within…

I’ve often spoken of the war inside of myself between the “Warden” and the “Unruly Child.” These two archetypes represent two distinct aspects of my personality.  The Unruly Child desires complete freedom and carte blanche to do whatever she wants in any given moment, even if that includes watching TV and eating bonbons (that’s what many people who know me think I do, anyway, since I haven’t had a “real job” in a number of years).   The Unruly Child doesn’t want to be told what to do by anyone, at any time.

On the flip side, there is the Warden… The Warden is like a drill sergeant. He (I always see the Warden as a man) orders me around continuously and won’t let me rest until there are no tasks left on my to-do list.  Of course, since no one ever really has a completed to-do list, there is no rest for the wicked – or the weary.

The Warden thrives on “shoulds” and believes that if I do not live a regimented existence, nothing will ever get done and all will be chaos.

When the Unruly Child is running the show, I am incredibly unproductive and I don’t feel very good about myself.  Deep down, we all want to get things done and enjoy the fruits of our labor.  Just as children thrive on structure, so do adults.  However, the realm of the Warden is like structure on steroids.  While I may be industrious under the Warden’s regime, I am not happy and I definitely don’t feel free.

Struggling To Find a Happy Medium

For many years, I have vacillated between the chaotic world of the Unruly Child and the prison sentence of the Warden’s control.  I am still struggling to find a happy medium.  I envision the happy medium as a place where peace and productivity can co-exist and thrive together. My “healing product” is not just about healing my body; it’s also about transforming my soul.  One aspect of my inner healing has to do with releasing the “tyranny of the shoulds” and breaking the Warden’s stronghold that saps my vitality and aliveness.

Escaping the Tyranny – A Few Tips

How can we break the hold which “shoulds” have over us?

  • The “I Should…” exercise from Louise Hay which I wrote about in my last post is a good first step.   Sometimes increasing our awareness about the origin of our self-imposed musts can help us to either release or re-frame them.

We can also invent games to play with ourselves to at least place boundaries around our “shoulds.”

  • One thing I do is to select a maximum of three “most important tasks” (MITs) which I will need to complete on any given day. I learned this technique from “The Power of Less” by Leo Babauta, a book which is focused on helping people to simplify their lives.  I’ve found that if I contain my obligations, I can achieve more of a sense of accomplishment from completion.
  • Another “game” I play with myself as a self-employed person is to make deals with myself. I think of something that the “Unruly Child” really wants to do, such as watch TV or read a magazine.  Instead of either doing that thing right away or postponing it until that mythical time when everything is done, I negotiate an agreement with the Warden.  If I spend a certain amount of time on a critical task or complete one of my MITs, I can watch a show or spend a predetermined time frame reading a magazine or surfing the internet.  It’s kind of like time off for good behavior…
  • Something else which has been helpful for me in achieving balance is to track my successes. I wrote about this in one of my earlier posts, “The Practice of Gratitude.”  Including a short list of the things I did well on any given day helps me to realize that despite my perfectionist protests to the contrary, I am getting a lot done and moving forward in my life.

Freedom Lives in the Center

We all have a tendency to be too hard on ourselves. We can be so quick to admonish ourselves for our failings while simultaneously neglecting to give ourselves credit for our successes.  I believe we all have a “Warden” inside of ourselves.  Freud called this facet of our personalities the Superego, but there are many other names for it.  I also feel that each of our personalities includes an “Unruly Child” of sorts (Freud’s concept of the Id).

Our power doesn’t rest in either of these personas.  Our power is seated within our Higher Selves, the part of us that desperately craves balance, fulfillment, and self-expression.

How can we access our Higher Self on a more regular basis? Well, that is a topic for a future post!  If you have any tips or suggestions, or if you would like to comment on what I’ve written in this post, I am open to feedback.  We can definitely help each other to escape the “tyranny of the shoulds” and move forward more freely and powerfully.

Body Love, Self-Love

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Body Love and Self-AcceptanceNOTE: This article was originally posted to my previous blog, “The Healing Project,” in May 2010.

If someone were to ask you if you love yourself, how many of you would reply with an enthusiastic “Yes”?  How about if you were asked if you love your body?  I know that for most of my life, I would have found both questions absurd.  I definitely and unequivocally did not love myself or my body.

For years, I was my own worst critic.  I would unleash a torrent of criticism upon myself on a daily basis that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.  In fact, I was my own worst enemy.  Nothing I could do was ever good enough for me; my standards were impossibly high and there was no way I could reach them.  While my targets for accomplishment and success were virtually unachievable, my standards for my body and physical appearance surpassed them by leaps and bounds.

Specter in the Mirror

I would look in the mirror and pick myself apart mercilessly.  My hair was frizzy, my face was blotchy, my nose was too big, my hips were huge, and my thighs were completely unacceptable!  These are just a few of the criticisms that would play like a broken record inside my mind.  My self-criticism and overall negative attitude toward my body propelled me into a long battle with anorexia and bulimia, a struggle which almost killed me during my teens and twenties.  Even after I managed to pull myself out of the depths of that battle, the criticism did not end.  I was ruthless in the way that I’d pick myself apart, and all compliments from others would be quickly negated inside my mind.  I just wasn’t pretty enough, thin enough, firm enough, or anything enough…

The Toll of Self-Abuse

The years of criticizing my body have taken a toll on my psyche and my health.  Although I have become decidedly more kind toward myself and my body in recent months (partly as a result of my healing project), the damage has been done. I am convinced that the laundry list of health issues from which I suffer can be attributed to the years of self-flagellation.

Think about it… How would you respond to a person who continuously berates you?  Would you thrive and shine in that person’s presence, or would you wither and fade?  The way in which my body has responded to my abuse is no surprise to me.  As Louise Hay and other wise spiritual teachers have written, our thoughts create our reality.  The reality of my physical body has been shaped by what I have continually thought over the years.

My husband has frequently commented on how mean I was to myself in my words.  Sadly, my unkind words paled in comparison to the ferocity of my internal dialogue.   I have created my poor health of the present time.  I take responsibility for that, as sad and defeated as it makes me feel today.

Learning to Love Myself

I am not an unkind person.  In fact, I believe I have a good and kind heart.  It is time for me to direct that kindness and compassion toward myself.  It is time for me to treat myself the way I would treat a person I deeply love.  In truth, I have learned to love myself in recent years.  I have learned to appreciate my uniqueness and my good qualities.  I am finally able to say – and mean – those simple but difficult words, “I love myself.”  I can even speak those words while staring into my own eyes in the mirror, yet tears always well up in those same eyes.   Likewise, I find myself becoming tearful as I express these sentiments today…

Ending the War with Self

The tears are for the years of self-hatred, for the wasted time during which I was at war with myself and my body. Although I would love to recapture those lost years and circumvent my current health challenges, I can only live in the moment and move forward.   Hopefully, I have many years ahead of me during which I can live peacefully with myself and my miraculous body which has survived despite years and years of punishing abuse.

Responsibility is Powerful

Some of you may identify with what I have written. I know that many people are tremendously hard on themselves and their bodies.  We can blame society and the unattainable standards that are set out for us by Hollywood and Madison Avenue.  But while society can and does play a role in our self-image and body image struggles, the ultimate responsibility falls upon us.  That is good news because it means that we have the power to transform our thoughts and attitudes.

Moving Forward…

How do we do that?  Let’s take some tips from Louise Hay (from “You Can Heal Your Life,” page 23):

“Loving the self, to me, begins with never ever criticizing ourselves for anything.  Criticism locks us into the very pattern we are trying to change. Understanding and being gentle with ourselves helps us to move out of it. Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked.  Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”

I Approve of Myself

I have been repeating the affirmation, “I approve of myself,” over and over inside my head for months now.  It is a simple affirmation that I think whenever it comes to mind.  I use this affirmation to cancel out self-criticism when I become aware that I am thinking negative thoughts about myself.  Although I know it will take time to undo the effects of my many years of self-abuse, affirming approval of myself is starting to have a positive effect on me.  I am beginning to notice my negative thoughts more readily and can more easily release them and replace them with more beneficial thoughts.  It is becoming easier for me to think kind and loving thoughts about myself.  I am experiencing small but noticeable “pockets” of inner peace in my days, and that gives me hope for the future.

Hope to Soldier On

The journey to heal my health and my life is a challenging and tumultuous road with many twists and turns.  I am humbled on a regular basis by the ebb and flow of my numerous health issues which only seem to crop up again just when I feel they may finally be behind me.  Yet I have hope and that allows me to soldier on with my healing project.

I believe that the key to healing is in self-acceptance.  In the spirit of hope, I close this post with another quote from Louise Hay, one which provides hope for us all for a peaceful and powerful future:

“I find that when we really love and accept and APPROVE OF OURSELVES EXACTLY AS WE ARE, then everything in life works.  It’s as if little miracles are everywhere.  Our health improves, we attract more money, our relationships become more fulfilling, and we begin to express ourselves in creatively fulfilling ways.  All this seems to happen without even trying.”

Principles of Louise Hay – Part 4

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This post outlines the final three key principles from “You Can Heal Your Life.”

“We must be willing to learn to love ourselves.”

Many years ago, I first heard the saying, “You can’t love anyone else unless you love yourself first.” At the time, I despised this saying and vehemently disagreed with its sentiments.  Although I was clear that I didn’t love myself much back then, I believed that I was a loving person and fully capable of loving others.  Now I am much more open to the message, except that I would qualify the saying by adding the word fully, as in “one cannot love another fully unless he loves himself.” If we are mired in self-criticism and self-hatred, there is much less of ourselves to give to others, which makes us less able to love others to full capacity.

Yet, the ability to love others fully is only one reason for us to love ourselves.  When we treat ourselves with loving kindness, we experience a number of other benefits.   These benefits include:

  • Decreased anxiety
  • Increased inner peace
  • Improved relationships
  • Enhanced health and well-being

Notice that this principle includes two key words, willing and learn.  For those of us who have not loved ourselves for many, many years, it probably won’t happy overnight.  We need to learn to treat ourselves more kindly, much like we would need to learn a new language or the tasks for a new job.  It’s a process and it takes time.  However, the key is to be willing to learn, whether it’s learning a new language or a new way of reacting toward oneself. If we are open and willing to a new way of being, the learning process will flow much more smoothly.

Louise Hay is a big advocate of the use of affirmations.  One affirmation which she uses often is, “I am willing to change.” A variant on this affirmation could be, “I am willing to learn to love myself” or simply, “I am willing to love myself.” Affirmations really do help!  When I find myself engaging in negativity, I often snap myself out of that mindset by repeating a simple affirmation several times inside my head.  Give it a try… You might not notice a difference overnight, but I promise you, it will help!

Start with the willingness to love yourself and build from there.  The first step is always the most difficult.  Take that first step and see how you grow and blossom over time.

“Self-approval and self-acceptance in the now are the keys to positive changes.”

We have all made mistakes in the past.  None of us are perfect and I’m sure that if we could turn back the clock, knowing what we know now, we would make different decisions and act in alternate ways.  This key asks us to stop looking back and stop berating ourselves for our past failings.  It asks us to stand firmly in the now with an attitude of “I approve of myself” and “I am okay.” With this positive attitude, we are better prepared to move forward and to make the changes we want to make in our lives.

Would you feed yourself or your child a meal on one of last night’s dirty dishes?  Of course not!  Well, working on creating a new future on top of the “muck” of berating yourself for your past wrongs is akin to eating a delicious meal from a dirty dish.  It just wouldn’t taste as good!

We need to let go of the past and focus on what we want to create in our lives.  We cannot change the past, so it does virtually no good to ruminate upon it.  The only time when past reflection is productive is when we are looking for lessons to apply moving forward.  Otherwise, let the past go.  Embrace yourself and your life today, set powerful goals for yourself, and work on accomplishing them from a space of self-acceptance and self-approval.

I know this can be easier said than done, but as with the previous key, it begins from an attitude of willingness.  Be willing to approve of yourself and willing to accept yourself.   Use affirmations to help you along the way.  The exercises in “You Can Heal Your Life” and other related teachings will help tremendously.

Being able to accept, approve of, and love ourselves is an ongoing process.  I have definitely made a lot of progress in this regard, but I still have my days when I am highly self-critical.  It is at those times that I recommit to being willing to change, and I move forward as best I can.

I remember one of the powerful tenets from “The Four Agreements,” which is Always Do Your Best.  Our best isn’t always the same.  Some days our best means simply that we get out of bed, whereas our best on other days leads to tremendous accomplishments.  But if we commit to always doing our best and being willing to accept and love ourselves, all things are possible.

“When we really love ourselves, everything in our life works.”

Self-love is a critical facet of “the Healing Project.”  As we move forward in healing our lives, we will work on learning to love ourselves more and on being more gentle and accepting toward ourselves.  As we look at the probable thought patterns for a host of common health challenges, we’ll notice that these patterns are highly negative and destructive.  When we are able to turn these thought patterns around and replace them with more empowering and positive thoughts, miracles will start to happen in our lives.  We will start to feel better physically, we’ll have a more genuinely cheerful disposition, we’ll have more “good days,” our relationships will improve, and we’ll attract better outcomes for our life endeavors.  Quite simply, our lives will work much better.

Don’t you want to have a life that works better?  I know I do.  I used to try to climb an uphill battle to a better life, all the while driving myself with all the sensitivity of a drill sergeant.  That approach didn’t get me what I wanted, so I’m willing to try another avenue.  I am willing to step into the belief that when I really love myself, everything in my life will work.

Principles of Louise Hay – Part 3

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This post is a continuation of the key principles of Louise Hay’s philosophy.  This post outlines three more of the points which are the basis for “You Can Heal Your Life.”

“Resentment, criticism, and guilt are the most damaging patterns.”

There are many thought patterns that can be harmful to us, especially if we engage in them on a regular basis.   However, some patterns are more harmful than others, and Louise Hay contends that resentment, criticism, and guilt are the most damaging patterns of all.  Upon reflection, I would have to agree with her.  Let’s look at these patterns one by one, along with some examples of each, to drive the point home.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines resentment as follows:

a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury

It is normal to notice when we are wronged and to be upset by it.  But when we continue to rehash a bad situation and ruminate upon how unfair or wrong it was, it can be harmful to our sense of well-being, as well as our health.   There is a man I know who felt he was treated unfairly at work and had filed a grievance against his employer.  Even several years later, one could not have a conversation with him without the topic of his grievance coming up.  Not only did this repel others from desiring to be in his company, I’m sure it also destroyed his inner peace and happiness.  This is just one example of the harmful effects of resentment.

When one is either the target or the source of criticism, it is damaging.  Yet the most detrimental form of criticism is when it is self-directed.  I can speak of this from extensive personal experience.  I used to be extremely critical toward myself.  I had a running tape inside my head of all of the ways in which I was deficient and didn’t measure up to my expectations.  At times my self-criticism would be voiced, but the verbal complaints paled in comparison to the negative voice which lived inside of my head.  I am convinced that the many health complaints which I have today were created by means of my intense criticism of all facets of my being – my appearance, my career pursuits, my interactions with others, you name it… I am gradually turning this around and the negative tape is no longer the constant presence it once was.   As I emerge from the chasm that was my self-criticism, I gain an ever increasing amount of joy, peace, and happiness.  And interestingly enough, as I criticize myself less often, others are less prone to denigrate me as well.  I am also less prone to deriding others.  Win, win!

As the old saying goes, guilt is a wasted emotion.  It doesn’t make anyone feel better, and it cannot do anything to change a given situation.  It is also often misplaced and experienced by people who have nothing to feel guilty about in the first place!  The famous radio talk show host, Dr. Laura, says that guilt is only merited if one has truly done something wrong.  Even then, the guilt should only serve to motivate the individual to do whatever he or she can do to make amends to those they have wronged.  If you have done all you can to make things right, then let the guilt go.  I once had a seminar leader who stated, “Let it go; it’s killing you!”  He was referring to the ongoing guilt and regret which we experience about things that are past and cannot be changed.

If you have done something wrong, apologize, make amends, do what you can to make up for your infractions.  Don’t ruminate in wasted feelings of guilt.  If you have not done anything wrong, do whatever you need to do to release your guilt.  As Louise Hay says, “Your sentence is now over, so let yourself out of prison.”

“Releasing resentment will dissolve even cancer.”

It is Louise Hay’s contention that cancer is caused by deep resentment held for a long time until it literally eats away at the body.  As she states on page 169 of “You Can Heal Your Life,” those who develop cancer often experienced something in childhood which destroyed their sense of trust and led them to find it difficult to develop and maintain long-term, meaningful relationships.   These individuals also have a tendency to feel hopeless and helpless and to be highly self-critical.   A big key toward healing cancer is for the person to release their resentment toward the past and those who hurt them and to learn to love and accept themselves.

I realize that the above paragraph may be difficult to take in and accept.  I am reminded of the 12-step group maxim, “Take what you like and leave the rest.”  If the idea that cancer is caused by resentment seems implausible to you, perhaps this is a concept from Louise Hay that you will choose to leave.  However, as I wrote about under the previous key, resentment can and does cause a lot of damage in those who harbor it, and we would all benefit tremendously from releasing any resentment we hold, particularly resentment of a deep and long-standing nature.  So instead of thinking about dissolving cancer by releasing resentment, why not consider the increased sense of well-being or lightheartedness which you could gain by letting go of a grudge that you hold.

“We must release the past and forgive everyone.”

When we are angry at others and hold grudges, it hurts us more than it hurts the other person.  Think about it… They are off living their lives while we are stewing and seething over how they have wronged us.   Often the person we choose not to forgive is not even in our lives any longer; they may even be deceased.  Yet we hold on to our anger and resentment because we feel justified in doing so.

You may have heard of the expression, “He would rather be right than happy.”  So many people are what might be called “right fighters.”  They are indignant about their position and swear that they are right in their assertions.  They may even BE right, yet that’s not what’s most important.  What’s most important is, are they happy?  Do they have peace of mind?  Are they enjoying their lives, or are they so wrapped up in their being right and someone else being wrong that all of the enjoyment has slipped out of living?

Forgiving someone for what they have done does not mean that you are saying what they did was okay.  Forgiveness is more about YOU than it is about the other person.  When you forgive someone, you are giving yourself permission to release the past and move on with your life.  If all or most of your energy is wrapped up in being angry at someone who hurt you, where is the energy for creating a life you love?

I remember reading a story about a woman who was raped.  Of course, rape is one of the most horrific atrocities which a human being can endure.  There is a temptation to want to crawl up and retreat from life, to go into a sort of cocoon and hide from life.  Yet this particular woman was extremely strong.  I don’t remember her exact words, but her sentiment has stuck with me.  She expressed that although the monster who raped her subjected her to pain and indignity for an hour, she wasn’t going to give him the power to take any more from her than he had already taken.  She decided to let go of the experience (I would imagine this wasn’t immediate and took some time) and embrace the rest of her life with strength, joy and conviction.  Her story was truly empowering to read!

One of the best ways to release the past is to look for lessons from your experiences.  It is a good practice to always ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience?” or “How has this experience shaped me as a person? How am I a better person as a result of this challenge?”  We all go through difficult times, some of us more than others.  There are many times when life doesn’t feel fair, but once something has happened, we can’t turn back the clock and change it.

I will end this entry with a wonderful quote from Louise Hay – food for thought until my next post…

“The point of power is always in the present moment. The past is over and done and has no power over me. I can begin to be free in this moment. Today’s thoughts create my future. I am in charge. I now take my own power back. I am safe and I am free.”

Principles of Louise Hay – Part 2

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This post is a continuation of the previous post and will cover more of the key principles of Louise Hay’s philosophy.  This post outlines four more of the points which are the basis for “You Can Heal Your Life.”

“Everyone suffers from self-hatred and guilt.”

I believe this principle is important for several reasons.  First, it’s always helpful and comforting to know that we are not alone in our struggles and pain.  Knowing that other people are experiencing the same difficulties as we are can help us to feel more normal and less dysfunctional.  Although I feel that some people struggle with self-hatred and guilt to a larger degree than others, I agree that this is an issue for everyone at some point in their lives. I believe that Louise Hay states this principle as a type of precursor to some of her later principles which work on transforming the painful feelings of self-hatred and guilt, as well as other harmful emotions and habits.

I have experienced a great deal of self-hatred and guilt over the course of my life.  To say that I am hard on myself is putting it mildly, so to speak.  I have a tendency to blame myself for anything that goes wrong and to hold myself to inordinately high standards which are virtually impossible to meet.  I feel guilty for the things which I have done wrong, as well for my poor judgments and missed opportunities.  Although I feel that I’ve improved greatly in terms of being less critical and mean toward myself, I still struggle with this issue.  I look forward to using Louise Hay’s principles to heal my self-critical tendencies.

“The bottom line for everyone is, ‘I’m not good enough’.”

This principle is directly related to the principle above.  We all struggle with feelings of inadequacy and set standards for ourselves which can be unreachable.  It’s common to look at what’s wrong in our lives and in ourselves instead of noticing what’s right.  It’s the proverbial “glass half empty” approach to life which is so prevalent in our society.  What we don’t realize, however, is how this approach to life impacts us.

Many of us are merely carrying on a legacy of thought patterns which were instilled in us from a young age.  We may have been raised by parents who criticized us more than they complimented us.  The tendency to look first for what’s wrong becomes a pattern which follows us throughout our lives.  It is likely that our critical parents were also raised by judgmental mothers and fathers, and the pattern continues from generation to generation.

It is difficult to thrive in the face of intense criticism and judgment.   It’s like going through life with a dark cloud over our heads, only we’re the ones who put the cloud there by our contention that we’re not good enough.  We need to learn that we don’t need to be perfect in order to be good enough; we can make mistakes and still be lovable and “okay.”

“It’s only a thought, and a thought can be changed.”

The feelings of self-hatred, guilt, and “not good enough” all spring from corresponding thoughts.  It isn’t true that we are bad or unworthy; we merely have beliefs that state such things as if they were grounded in fact.  As stated in the previous principle, “every thought we think is creating our future,” our thoughts create our reality.   Yet the wonderful thing is that WE are in control of our thoughts!  With a little practice, we can learn to notice our limiting thoughts and to replace them with empowering thoughts.

I have become a lot more adept at noticing when I am thinking negative thoughts, particularly about myself.  One key is to pay attention to your emotions.  If you are feeling bad, it’s a good sign that you are thinking negative thoughts.  If you notice yourself feeling sad or angry, pause for a moment and ask yourself, “What was I just thinking?”  There’s a good chance that you were thinking something negative and maladaptive.   If you get into the habit of noticing your emotions and questioning your thoughts, you will become more and more aware of what you’re thinking.  Consequently, you’ll be able to replace your negative thoughts with more positive and affirming ones.  It just takes some practice!

“We create every so-called illness in our body.”

This can be a difficult principle for many to take on.   It is uncomfortable to feel bad physically and think that you are to blame for your discomfort.  This is especially difficult in the case of severe and life-threatening illnesses.  Yet it is helpful to remember that such illnesses do not come upon a person overnight. The more severe the disease, the more long-standing the pattern of negative thinking which has preceded its genesis.

I rebelled against this concept when I first read “You Can Heal Your Life.”  I didn’t want to believe that I had created the horrendous migraines which had plagued me since the age of eighteen.  However, when I read the probable thought pattern for migraines, as postulated by Louise Hay, it made sense:  dislike of being driven, resisting the flow of life.  I am what one would call a “control freak” and I hate it when things don’t go my way or when others try to control my actions or experiences.   It makes sense that perhaps my ongoing thought patterns had at least contributed to my migraines.  And although migraines run in my family, it’s likely that controlling and perfectionist tendencies have also been passed down through the generations.

If the word “create” in terms of thoughts and illnesses feels too strong for you to swallow, I suggest that you try on the word “contribute.”  It’s easier to accept that one’s negative thought patterns can contribute to the illnesses which he or she experiences.   Either way, the “remedy” is the same – adopt new thought patterns which better serve you.  Positive thoughts have the power to heal us.  Although I am riddled with a number of physical complaints as I write this, I believe that I have the power to heal my ailments.   Accepting that I have the power to create BOTH illness and health is a cornerstone of my healing project!