Tag Archives: empowerment

It’s the Little Things…

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“We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

Many hands on a globeI have always wanted to make a difference in the world.  Over the years, my vision for how I would do this has shifted, but I have maintained my desire to help others.

Lately, I have questioned how much of a contribution I’ve been making and have increasingly felt that what I do is not good enough.   A recent experience vividly illustrated the powerful truth in Mother Teresa’s simple quote.   The focus of this week’s post is on that experience, what it taught me, and how I will proceed in life based upon what I learned.

An Ordinary Evening – Or Not…

One evening two weeks ago, my husband and I went to the gym to work out.  It was like any other evening, or at least that’s how it started out.  As we were walking from the parking lot into the gym, we heard a noise…  Upon repetition, it became clear to us that the sound was a cat’s meow.  Soon, a small white cat with tabby markings was at our feet, meowing loudly and nudging us.  Her friendly demeanor made it clear that she wasn’t a feral cat, but her thin appearance was characteristic of a stray and most likely abandoned feline.   The meows were likely a cry for help, a plea for food by a cat that probably hadn’t had a good meal in a long time.

The Bystander Effect

While we stood next to the meowing cat, a number of people walked by us and appeared to be indifferent to what was happening.   Like everyone seems to be these days, they were probably busy and moving on to the next item on their lengthy to-do lists.   There is something known as the “bystander effect,” a phenomenon that explains why most people don’t rush to help those in need.  When there are many others in the vicinity, it is assumed that someone else will help.

I had read about this problem in “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell just a few weeks ago, in fact.  Gladwell illustrated his point by recounting the story of the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City.  While Ms. Genovese was stabbed to death on the street, 38 witnesses watched from nearby buildings and NONE of them called the police!

Just Another Bystander?

I realize that ignoring a stray cat is not the same as idly standing by while a woman is murdered.  However, since our gym is located at the intersection of two busy streets in a high-traffic commercial area, the chance of this small cat surviving under those conditions was not very good.  I decided not to assume that someone else would help the cat.   I chose not to walk away because it was inconvenient for me to help at that time.  I decided that I would be the one to rescue the sweet little kitty from her scary plight.   In that moment, I knew that I could do a small thing with great love!

A Happy Ending

My husband and I had help in saving the little kitty we nicknamed “Sparky.”  We were able to lure her into a carrier with canned food and a local rescue group took her in and got her spayed and vaccinated.

We were pleased to learn a few days ago that Sparky was adopted immediately following her five day hold at the shelter.  She now has a new home and a new chance at a happy life.   The fact that we were willing to step in and help saved Sparky’s life, and it didn’t take much time or effort, either.

I Make a Difference

The “Sparky experience” taught me that although I had been feeling small and insignificant in the world, I do matter and I can make a difference.   While it’s true that I have not made myself a household name or achieved a seven (or even six) figure income, I mattered to Sparky and I made a powerful and significant difference in her life.  She didn’t care that I am not successful according to our society’s definition of the concept.  I allowed myself to be guided by my heart and help a small creature that really needed my help.

Moving Forward – More Small Things…

I’ve decided to commit to doing more small things with great love, both for those I know and those whom I’ve never met.  Since I feel a strong connection to animals, I have submitted an application to volunteer with the rescue group that helped us to rescue Sparky.  I also plan to pursue other volunteer opportunities for valuable causes that strike my passion and tug at my heartstrings.  I have the time and freedom to volunteer, and will find organizations which have a need for the types of services I can provide.

I will also strive to be more open and giving with the people in my life.  I have a tendency to be withdrawn and reserved and I know that leads me to feel more isolated and alone.  I plan to review my list of contacts to see who I might want to reconnect with in the coming weeks and months.  I also plan to put myself “out there” more often so I can make new personal and professional connections.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as the old saying goes…

The Ripple Effect

I am often very hard on myself and make blanket judgments about my purpose and place in this world.  In truth, I have no idea how much I touch the lives of others in small but meaningful ways.  I am reminded of the movie “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing,” a film which explores how the lives of thirteen people intersect in the face of life’s cold unpredictability.   One of the characters had been standing on a street corner about to walk out into oncoming traffic to commit suicide.  As he stood there, he saw a woman (one of the other characters but a stranger to him) smile at him from across the street.  This simple act of kindness and generosity convinced the man that there was still hope for him and a reason to live. The smiling women never knew that she saved someone’s life that day…

We never know how much we impact others.  We can make a difference in large and dramatic ways, in smaller yet deliberate ways, and in random and unintentional ways.  The important thing to remember is that we can and do contribute to the lives of others.   If we choose to do so, we can make a concerted effort to positively influence others, but even those who primarily pursue self-serving ends still have a ripple effect on the world around them.  We all matter and we are all valuable to our loved ones, our communities, and the society at large.

Kindness and Contribution

Remember, we don’t need to commit grand gestures in order to make a difference.  We make a difference by being our authentic selves and acting from our hearts.

I close with a few quotes on the topics of kindness and contribution.

  • “Every smile is a direct achievement.” – Unknown
  • “Isn’t it amazing how often we can touch someone’s life, and enrich our own, by a very simple act? Kindness, pass it on…” – Betty, WA Community Organizer
  • “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” – Mother Teresa
  • “Be kind.  It is hardly ever the wrong thing to do.” – Unknown

The Decision

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Open Doorway to BeautyThe following is a journal entry that I made on August 31, 2009.  I titled this passage simply, “The Decision,” and have been carrying it in my purse now for over a year. 

Although I didn’t start my “healing project” until February 2010, I consider “The Decision” to have been the start of my turning my life around.  It was when I decided to change my attitude from negative to positive and to take charge of my life.

It Began with a Life-Changing Book…

I made an important decision today which I know will be life-changing.  It happened while I was reading a book  I’ve had for a year yet only recently started to read.  The book is called “The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die.”  I was so excited when I bought this book last September, but I was “too busy” to read it until now, or maybe I just wasn’t ready until now…

Fear, Negativity, and Pessimism

I turned 43 a few weeks ago, so statistically that puts me right at “mid-life.”  Of course, I have no way of knowing if I have 40 or 50 more years to live – or only a few months.  But even if I assume that I will live until 80 or 90 or more, do I want to live my life in the way I have been living it?

In recent months, I have become increasingly fearful, negative, and pessimistic.  I worry about many things and I’ve become more and more fearful of death.  It only hit me recently why I fear death so much.  It isn’t about the “what happens after we die” question as much as it is about “what has my life meant?”

Worrying My Life Away

I wrestle with many issues and worry my life away.  I think so much about the purpose of my life in terms of career and money, I lose sight of what my deeper purpose could be.  I worry and fret and get upset over minor annoyances as well as the bigger things in life.  The smallest things can set me off and get my head into a tailspin.

My poor, dear husband gets the brunt of all of this, as I don’t elect to share my thoughts and feelings with many other people.  He is a positive and affirming person and can often get me out of my negative states, but I’m sure he would rather not have to do it.  He has a lot on his plate as it is…

An Empowering Realization

What I realized this morning is something I knew before, but not “in my bones.”  I realized that I get to choose!  I can decide how I will approach my life and how things will affect me.  I can decide to be happy and positive instead of negative and depressed.

Not only can I decide to be happy and positive, I did decide that – just today.  Sure, I’ve made such proclamations in the past, but this time is different.  I don’t know if I hit “rock bottom” or if I had just had enough of my self-imposed suffering, but no more!

I am the architect of my life, the writer of my story, the director of the play of my life.

My Epiphany

I remember when my co-author and I wrote our book, “Searching for an Epiphany” (this book has not been published).   It was about our elusive quest for the “it job.”  I thought my epiphany would be when I knew “what I wanted to be when I grew up.”  Well, you know what?  I still don’t know, but I did have an epiphany today, and I do know some important things.

I am not a loser.  I am not a screw up.  I am not a mess, or any of the other derogatory terms by which I’ve called myself.  I am an intelligent, capable, and talented human being.  I have many interests, which is why it’s been difficult for me to settle upon just one thing.

Live With Purpose, Joy, and Courage

My many interests are a great blessing.  Maybe I will never find the “it job” and just maybe (or even probably), that will be okay.  What I will do, however, is live my life with purpose, joy, and courage instead of fear and despair.

I may never make six or seven figures per year, or I might, but who cares?  I am here, I am alive, I have my intelligence, I have my health (save the niggling problems which I WILL conquer with my new positive attitude), I have my loved ones, and I have so much more.

Today is the First Day…

This may sound trite and Pollyanna-ish, but it’s not.  I really mean this.  The saying “today is the first day of the rest of my life” is always true, but it feels more true for me today.  No matter how much time I have left, I promise these things:

  • To live my life true to myself,
  • To live without regrets,
  • To live without fear,
  • To live with purpose,
  • To embody love,
  • And to live in joy and peace!

Today, August 31, 2009, truly is the first day of the rest of my life.  Let it begin now!

Addendum – 9/23/2010

I posted the above journal entry today with the hope that my readers would find it inspirational.  I know that I am inspired and empowered each time I read it.  The past few weeks have been quite challenging for me, so it helps me to reconnect with the powerful intentions I set for myself on August 31, 2009:  to live in the moment, to face life with a positive attitude, and to courageously overcome my challenges.  Thirteen months later, I recommit to those intentions and continue “full speed ahead” with my healing project!

Fear… Only a Thought

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“Fears are merely thoughts, and thoughts can be released.”
– Louise Hay

The quote above begins Chapter 4 of the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book,” the chapter which focuses on fearful emotions. Although I have been diligently working through all of the exercises in this book, I have decided to only post on those that are most impactful to me and which I feel will be most relevant to my readers.

In this post, I share some of the exercises from Chapter 4 and my responses, as well as some insights to use in your own journey to facing and overcoming fear.

The Price of Fear

Frightened WomanFear impacts all of us.  We let fear stop us from pursuing our dreams, speaking our minds, sharing our love, and fully living our lives. We experience fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of change, fear of the future, fear of intimacy, and even fear of success.  Some of us literally become paralyzed by our fears.

The chapter begins with a checklist of thirteen fear-related statements which express negative and limiting beliefs that hold us back in life. We are instructed to check the ones which feel true for us at present.  Even though a few of the statements were phrased in more extreme language than I would personally use, I checked those for which I felt heaviness in my chest upon reading the words:

  • Growing older frightens me.
  • I have difficulty expressing my feelings.
  • I can’t focus on anything.
  • I feel like a failure.
  • What if I have to endure a painful death?

Following the checklist are some empowering insights from Louise Hay on the subject of fear.  She states that “in any given situation, we have a choice between love and fear.” She follows by emphasizing that when you feel frightened, you are not loving and trusting yourself.

Fear is Not the Real Problem

Louise mentions the powerful book by Susan Jeffers, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.” This book was published in 1987, but its message is equally as valid in 2010.  In a nutshell, Ms. Jeffers postulates that fear is not the real problem that people are experiencing.  The real issue, she states, is not the fear, but how we hold the fear. We can approach the fear from a position of power or a position of helplessness.  When we allow ourselves to feel the fear but take action anyway, we move from vulnerability to empowerment.

“Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.”
– Mark Twain

Acting In Spite of Fear

Acting in spite of fear requires both self-acceptance and letting go of the judgments of others. How often do we stop ourselves from taking action because we doubt ourselves or worry what others will think?  It is important to remember that everyone doubts themselves at times. Who is really sure that his actions are the right ones, and who can be certain that his actions will yield the desired results?

Those who are living the lives of their dreams are the ones who acted in spite of the worry and doubt. They are also the ones who, when they fail, pick themselves right up and try again.

Follow Your Own North Star

The happy and successful in the world do not waste needless time and energy worrying about what others think of them. They are guided by their own North Star and are willing to risk the rolling eyes and shaking heads of those who chastise them for choosing to follow the “road less traveled.”

Think of the people whom you admire.  Are they the ones who do what everyone else is doing, or are they the ones who march to the beat of their own drum?  The people who I admire are those who are self-aware, confident, and true to themselves and their dreams. They may not be rich or famous, but they are happy because they are living their own lives and are governed by possibility instead of fear.

Empowering Affirmations to Fight Fear

Another exercise in the “Fearful Emotions” chapter instructs us to list our greatest fears related to ten key areas of life, from career and family to health and death.  Following each fear, we are asked to create a positive corresponding affirmation to help counteract the fear. The area in which I am experiencing the most difficulty at present is health.  My deepest fear and empowering affirmation for my health are as follows:

Health Fear: I will continue to have a plethora of ongoing health issues and it will only worsen as I get older.
Health Affirmation:
I release my health problems and embrace my right to vibrant good health!

The above affirmation provides infinitely more possibility for my future than the corresponding fear. I was so energized by the affirmation that I have affixed it to both my computer and bathroom mirror so that I can subconsciously internalize my new belief throughout each day.

In Closing – Choosing the Positive

The chapter ends with a list of suggested affirmations to counter the destructive fears from the checklist in the first exercise. I end this post with my new empowering affirmations, as well as a few quotes I like on the topic of fear.  May we all “feel the fear and do it anyway!”

  • My age is perfect, and I enjoy each new moment. (replaces “Growing older frightens me.”)
  • It is safe to express my feelings. (replaces “I have difficulty expressing my feelings. “)
  • My inner vision is clear and unclouded. (replaces “I can’t focus on anything.”)
  • My life is a success. (replaces “I feel like a failure.”)
  • I will die peacefully and comfortably at the right time. (replaces “What if I have to endure a painful death?”)

Empowering Quotes on Fear:

Enough Already!

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Enough Already!A few weeks ago, I went to see a specialist about the throat discomfort and swallowing problems I’d been experiencing (see my “It’s Always Something” post for more about this). As usual, I had to spend quite a bit of time in the waiting room, and this particular waiting room was more crowded than usual.  In addition, the phone was ringing off the hook and the environment was far from peaceful.

To combat my internal frustration, I decided to journal about my feelings in that moment.  Here is an excerpt of what I wrote:

“Waiting to see specialist, room full of people…  I don’t want to be here! I don’t want the medical model with all of its procedures and medications.  I am tired of identifying as a sick person!  I need to heal myself spiritually. I can do it, and I will!”

A Moment of Clarity

In that moment, I felt absolute clarity about what I did and did not want.  I was clear in my desire to focus on my “healing project” rather than pursue medical procedures and prescription drugs. I didn’t have much time to reflect, however, as I was quickly whisked back into the examining room to see the doctor.  Almost immediately, she spoke of my having an endoscopy and taking twice-daily medications.  These things were exactly what I didn’t want!

I requested that the endoscopy be postponed for a month.  I agreed to take the medication, but I never ended up filling the prescription due to my worries about potential side effects.  Instead, I’ve been focusing on lifestyle changes such as eating more digestible foods in smaller portions and chewing my food more thoroughly.  I also take small doses of over-the-counter medication, which seems to be sufficient at this point. Although my throat problem (medical term = Laryngopharyngeal Reflux) has not gone away, it’s definitely less severe than it was a month ago.

Different Paths Toward Healing

I don’t feel any animosity toward doctors or other medical professionals.  I truly believe that most of them have pure intentions and that they can and do help many people.  But their methods are not the only methods that work.   I firmly believe that spiritual healing can be as effective – or even more effective – than medical healing in some cases.

I feel that for me, spiritual healing is the right path to follow.  I have several reasons for this assertion.  First, I have tried the medical model many times over and have experienced only limited success.  Second, the fact that I have new illnesses cropping up on a regular basis, with most of them being difficult to diagnose and treat, points to a spiritual crisis.  It’s as if the Universe is trying to get my attention and the messages keep getting louder and louder as time goes on.

A Powerful Epiphany

You might think that I had an epiphany in that moment in the doctor’s waiting room a few weeks ago.  Although it was a time of keen awareness, I wouldn’t exactly classify it as an epiphany.  The epiphany came several days later, as I was preparing to have surgery for the painful varicose veins in my left leg.  Shortly before walking into the surgical room, I stared at my reflection in the ladies room.  I was feeling intense trepidation about the surgery and the potential complications which could occur.  I affirmed to myself that I would be okay, and then it hit me…

I said to myself, “God has plans for me. I have a purpose.” It wasn’t so strange for me to say that, but the strange thing was that I actually believed it, so much so that it brought me to tears.  I knew that my purpose was to heal myself and to inspire others to do the same.  “The Healing Project” is my purpose and it came about through divine inspiration. The fact that I am overcome by emotion as I type this affirms this even more.

We Have the Power to Heal Ourselves

I need to fully believe that I have the power to heal myself.  I have to embody that belief and live from it. Yes, I did a medical procedure for my varicose veins, but as I move forward, I will focus on healing the thought patterns which created that condition.  I do not need to shun medical procedures, but I choose not to make them my first choice or to rely upon them.  I can use what is known as an “integrated” approach, but my primary focus will be on the spiritual forms of healing.

Putting “The Healing Project” Into High Gear

I started my healing project and this blog just over four months ago.  While I have made some progress and have been learning a lot about myself in the process, I don’t feel that I’ve dedicated enough time and attention to this effort.  I feel the need to launch “The Healing Project” into a higher gear so that I really do heal myself and my life in the course of one year.

My “amped up” healing project for the remainder of the year will involve the following (may be revised based upon my needs and experiences):

  • At least one hour per day writing and/or doing exercises from “You Can Heal Your Life” (YCHYL) and related texts.
  • Completion of the “You Can Heal Your Life” exercises by the end of 2010.
  • Healing Project writing/exercises will be done first thing in my “work day” except on the rare occasions when there is a schedule conflict.
  • Journal daily about my healing project – observations, concerns, wins, challenges (blog posts will be inspired by these journal entries as well as by the YCHYL and related exercises).
  • Blog at least twice per week in “The Healing Project” (to include some shorter posts on my insights, wins, and challenges).
  • Create a “cheat sheet” of affirmations from YCHYL for my health challenges and carry this page with me at all times.  Affirm new thought patterns regularly to break through blocks and limitations.
  • Carry a voice recorder with me so I can capture my thoughts as they occur.

Self-Expression and Possibility

I have been given the gift of self-expression, and I will use this gift (for writing and speaking) to inspire others.  I want to provide others with hope and empowerment. I remember when I did a seminar through Landmark Education called the Self-Expression and Leadership Program (SELP for short).  As part of that program, we all declared powerful possibilities for our lives.  I affirmed myself to be the possibility of empowerment, freedom, self-expression and unconditional love.

What this means to me now is that I will love myself unconditionally;  I will free myself from both my physical and psychological bondage.  Then I will use my gift for self-expression to empower others to do the same.

Who would have thought that the frustration of sitting in a doctor’s waiting room could lead to clarity about my life’s path?  Isn’t it interesting how these things work?  We never know where inspiration will hit us and the impact we have on others. Maybe I should thank that doctor and her staff for the gift of clarity that they inadvertently gave to me…

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.”

“I Should…”

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I Should...This post discusses the concept of “should,” as well as my insights from completing the “I Should” exercise from “You Can Heal Your Life.”

It is my intention to complete at least one exercise from Louise Hay each week and to share my experience and what I learn in this blog.   These posts may be combined with the weekly lesson, or they may stand on their own.

Louise Hay presents an exercise in “You Can Heal Your Life” which is focused on examining our internal “shoulds” and how we can create a more empowering inner dialogue.  The exercise begins with writing or typing “I Should…” and completing the sentence in as many ways as come to mind.  Here are a few of my “shoulds”:

  1. I should be more productive.
  2. I should make more money.
  3. I should get a real job.
  4. I should get up earlier.
  5. I should dress nicely more often.

Why Should I?

The next step of the exercise involves reading each “should” aloud and then asking, “Why?”  The responses to this question reveal where a person is stuck in his or her beliefs and self-imposed limitations. Here are my responses for the statements above:

  1. To get more done, to make myself useful, to justify my existence (re: productivity).
  2. That’s what a person is supposed to do, especially if she’s not a mother; it’s the right thing to do; to take the burden off of my husband (re: making more money).
  3. To make steady and good money, to feel more worthy and necessary, to feel more grounded (re: “real job”).
  4. Most people get up early, to get more done, to feel like less of a “slacker” (re: getting up early).
  5. I have lots of clothes in my closet, to look better, to take more pride in my appearance (re: dressing better).

Should – A Damaging Word…

Louise Hay feels that “should” is one of the most damaging words in the English language.  Every time we say “should,” we are in essence telling ourselves that we were, are, or are going to be wrong. Louise doesn’t believe we need more wrongs in our lives and that, instead, we need more freedom of choice.  She recommends that we replace the word “should” with “could,” as “could” gives us choice instead of making ourselves wrong.

I Could… Why Haven’t I?

The final step in the “I Should” exercise is to go back to each “should” statement and re-write the sentence, this time starting off with “If I really wanted to, I could…” and then asking, “Why haven’t I?” Here are my responses to that follow-on question:

  1. In truth, I am quite productive.  I have some days that are better than others, but so does everyone. I tend to be too “all over the map” and that impinges upon my productivity.  I need to focus more on what matters most and then I will be more productive.
  2. The main truth is that I don’t have to make more money.   My needs are met, so I don’t have to take on work that I don’t want to do.  I have very high standards for the work I will do and will likely need to lower them in order to make more money.
  3. I want to be passionate about what I’m doing.  I want to like what I do.   I also enjoy having variety in my work and many “real jobs” don’t allow for the variety – or the freedom – that I so greatly desire.  I think that instead of focusing on a job, I need to focus on pursuing my passions and working through the fears that hold me back from doing that which most lights me up.
  4. I don’t like to go to bed early and I do better on 7 or more hours of sleep per night.  If I get up by 7 a.m. each day, that is early enough.
  5. I do dress nicely when it matters.  If I am working at home, it’s fine to wear what’s most comfortable.  When I go out, I dress appropriately for my lifestyle.  I don’t usually go out dressed like a slob unless I’m going to the gym (and even then, I’m dressed suitably for the activity at hand).

From Should to Choice

The responses to “Why haven’t you?” often reveal that we’ve been beating ourselves up for something we never really wanted to do or that wasn’t our idea in the first place.  In many instances, the “should” originated with someone else, such as a parent or other powerful adult.  Alternatively, it may be based upon a firmly entrenched societal belief.  My belief that I should get up early is in line with the standard 8-5 job concept which is prevalent in our society.  Since I worked in the corporate world for so many years, I came to associate getting up early with being productive or worthwhile.

One of the benefits of examining our internal “shoulds” is that once we become aware that our “shoulds” originated elsewhere and they aren’t serving us in the present time, we can choose to release them.  As Louise Hay says, the power is always in the present moment.  Awareness can lead to power and choice.

Releasing or Reframing My “Shoulds”

In examining the “shoulds” which I presented in this post, I have chosen to release two and reframe the other three. I decided to release “I should get up earlier” and “I should dress nicely more often” because I realized that I was basing these edicts upon the beliefs of others.  For my life and what I’m up to, I get up early enough and I dress sufficiently well.

For the belief, “I should be more productive,” my reframe is to focus more on what matters most in my life and to center my productivity efforts on those items.  I don’t need to do more; I just need to do the critical few things which will make the greatest difference in my life.

In terms of “I should make more money,” I have decided that I do want to earn a higher level of income, but that I am committed to having that income be derived from work that matters to me.  My empowered action will be to pursue income sources in writing and designing websites for businesses and causes which inspire me.   I don’t need to “get a real job,” but I would like to determine a way to make a reasonably steady income while engaging in interesting and challenging work.

Valuable Insights Lead to Empowering Possibilities!

The “I Should…” exercise provided some valuable insights for me and enabled me to release some long-held limiting beliefs.  I can now move forward with some empowering possibilities for the things I could do.   I’m sure that I will still be confronted by the “tyranny of shoulds” from time to time.  In fact, this subject is of such great interest to me that it will be the topic for another upcoming post…

I encourage you to look at the ways in which “should” adversely impacts your life and to determine if there are any “shoulds” that you might wish to release. I look forward to embracing life from the space of “could” and enjoying more choice and freedom!

Illness as Avoidance

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Sometimes a headache isn’t just a headache… This is something I’ve pondered in recent months as I’ve considered how often I suffer from migraines.

Could it be possible that my headaches serve another purpose beyond causing me extreme pain and discomfort?  My thoughts and realizations on this subject will be the focus of today’s post.

Inconvenient Migraines & Other Such Ailments

Last summer and fall, I attended classes three nights per week.  Every two or three weeks, we would have a project to complete and hand in for course credit.  We would usually be given one class period to use as a “work night” for our projects.  After a few months of class, I noticed that I would almost invariably have a migraine on each project night.  Was this just a mere coincidence, or was something else behind it?

As I considered my project night migraines, I noticed that I would also get migraines on days or nights on which I had certain other commitments, such as a Toastmasters speech or a social function to attend.  It is highly unlikely that my migraines on all of these days happened by chance, so perhaps there were other forces at play…

I’ve also begun to notice that my other health issues have a tendency to come to the forefront at certain critical junctures in my life.   My digestive problems, sore throat and swallowing issues, neck and chest pains, and various other ailments often crop up under times of stress or discomfort.

Avoiding Commitments

Sometimes my headaches or other health challenges allow me to escape commitments in my life.  After all, if I am writhing in pain, who would expect me to attend a party or give a speech?  I am able to “bow out” of certain obligations by claiming illness without suffering the wrath of others or other such consequences.  I don’t consciously create the illnesses, but whenever there is a glaring pattern being displayed, it is worthwhile to examine the situation and any potential “payoffs” therein.

“Payoffs” of Illness

It may be strange to consider the “payoffs” of a migraine, digestive distress, or any other seriously uncomfortable condition.  After all, I am not exactly swinging from the chandeliers and celebrating when I am afflicted with such maladies.  But truth be told, I am getting a payoff from being sick.   I “get” to avoid a commitment that I have perhaps been dreading on either a conscious or subconscious level.  But at what cost?   Is it really better to be at home suffering in my body than to be in a situation with which I am not fully comfortable?  This is something I never really considered until recently…

Shifting Focus

Another “payoff” for me in my physical maladies is that my focus shifts from other problems or concerns to the illness at hand.  I no longer have to think about what else is bothering me; all of my attention moves to my body and its discomfort.  This was the case on my class project nights.  I was worried about doing a good job on my projects, about measuring up to the teacher’s standards and impressing my classmates.  Once the migraine would appear on the scene, however, it was all I could do to stay in class and work on the task at hand.  I didn’t have the energy to worry about my fears of not being good enough, so I just did my best on the project and let that be that.

The Lesser of Two Evils…

Do I like being in physical pain?  Of course not, but that pain is easier for me to bear – and more familiar – than any emotional pain which I may be feeling.  I don’t know what to do with the emotional pain; the possibilities are seemingly endless.  Plus, it isn’t socially acceptable to talk about our psychological pain, yet the discussion of health problems has no such taboos.  How many people will tell their co-workers about an appointment with a physician, yet guard a counseling appointment as a secret from all but their closest confidantes?

Awareness Leads to Choice

Realizing the ways in which my illnesses serve as vehicles of avoidance has helped me to change the ways in which I interact with my infirmities – and with other people. I now give myself permission to say no to commitments I don’t wish to fulfill.  If I don’t want to do something (and it isn’t necessary for my work, relationships, or life), I decline to commit, and I don’t allow any feelings of guilt to enter my consciousness.  If I don’t commit in the first place, I don’t need to create an illness in order to avoid doing something which I’m dreading.

However, if I have already agreed to do something and the time is at hand, I no longer use existing physical complaints as excuses for not honoring my commitments.  Only on a very rare occasion will I now cancel an obligation due to a health issue.  In almost all cases, I do what I have committed to do.  If I am in pain, I do my best not to show it and instead strive to move past it as best as I can.  What I’ve found is that I often end up feeling better once I get out of the house and am engaging with others at a social or business function.  The reason for my ailment (the avoidance) is no longer needed, so the pain gradually dissipates.

A Powerful Decision

I have made a decision not to let my physical pain stop me in life.  If I have decided to do certain activities on a given day, I will do them, pain or no pain.  Unless the pain is downright excruciating, I am not going to let it sideline me.  Pain isn’t going to stop me from living – and enjoying – my life!

I don’t believe that all of my aches and pains (or anyone else’s, for that matter) are means of avoiding commitments or thinking about uncomfortable situations.  But I’ve come to understand that some of my pain serves the purpose of avoidance.

My awareness of the subconscious functions of my pain has helped me to fight back and prevail.  I am no longer a helpless victim to my seemingly endless list of physical complaints.  I can be at choice in my life, and I choose to live each day to the fullest!

Something to Consider…

The next time you get a headache or some other type of pain, stop and consider what might be brewing beneath the surface.  Could it be that you have created your physical pain in order to prevent or avoid potential psychological discomfort?  If so, how would it be for you to face the  challenges at hand and not let your ailments stop you?  Perhaps if our ailments no longer serve a purpose in our lives, they will gradually fade away, and we will be free!