Category Archives: Hate-Loss Challenge 2012

Final Farewell to The Hate-Loss Challenge

Self Reflection is one of the hardest things to do because we’re forced to stop and take a look at who we really are, both inside and out. We spent the month of January staring down our reflections and standing up for ourselves.  I am proud of what we’ve accomplished here this month and I hope you think so, too. 

Before we officially retire our HL Challenge badge for the year, I’d like to say:

….thanks to those who provided me with feedback (positive and negative) on what you liked and didn’t like about the Challenge.   Your comments will help shape next year’s challenge and make it even better. 

….congratulations to those of you who completed exercises that were especially difficult.

Just a few of the things that participants accomplished this month:

  • you committed yourself to setting dates that you’ve been avoiding.  One of you decided it was time for a major move to another state. 
  • you posted a vlog.
  • you treated yourselves to some very deserving things like new nail polish and massages. 
  • you performed random acts of kindness from helping your elderly neighbors to assisting strangers in picking out stationary, to driving 4 hours round trip in order to help out a friend in need. 
  • You realized that there is no perfect moment. You decided it was time for a long overdue portrait with a photographer; you let go of your long locks and gave yourself a short (and beautiful) new haircut.
  • you planted and nurtured a small, inner seed that grew every time you said to yourself, I am beautiful; I am worthy; I am remarkable.
  • you conquered some inner demons, let go of some bad memories and forgave yourself for past mistakes.  
  • you committed yourself to doing a challenge – and you despise challenges!

 

There is so much more I could write, but really, the main thing I want remembered is this: I hope you all move into the month of February – this month of love – respecting, appreciating and admiring yourselves half as much as I do you. 

Be proud of yourselves….

bonafideblog

 

The comments section today will be left WIDE open for suggestions, questions, reactions, whatever you want to say about this Challenge.    Now is your time to take the platform and give me feedback on where we succeeded as well as where we dropped the ball. 

Would you like to see this challenge become a yearly event? 

Were the exercises too difficult?  Too easy? Too personal?  Right on target?

What did you like most about this Challenge?  What did you like least? 

Did you follow through with the daily affirmations?  Should we have dedicated more time to that topic or was it just enough? 

 

Any and all feedback will be greatly appreciated.  Thank you for being part of a great month here on my blog.  I couldn’t have done it without you Smile

 

XO,

~Ellen

Group Therapy Thursday: Week Four

Wow!  Can you believe this is our last group therapy day?  I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown quite fond of our weekly meet-ups.  You’ve all been such a source of comfort and strength to each other, and to me.  I will miss our time together here. But….it’s not over yet, so let’s get started with this week’s update!

 

 

This week we had two options to choose from.  The first one was to Pay It Forward or in simpler terms: do a random act of kindness for another person. 

The second option was to treat yourself to something special, especially if you tend to over-extend yourself to other people on a regular basis. 

 

 

This was a very sad and stressful week for me.  My grandmother died, and at the last moment I was unable to leave for the eight hour drive to attend her funeral.  My husband became ill the night before we were to leave, and the morning of our scheduled departure,  I rushed Emmie to the vet only to learn that she was very sick with Hookworm.  I spent the week tending to husband and dog while continuing to work, while my mind and heart were in Kentucky with my mother and family.  I was feeling too depressed to commit myself to my exercise  and spent the week wondering what on earth I was going to write about when Thursday came around.  Before I knew it, Wednesday was here and I couldn’t even think about doing a good deed for someone, much less do something for myself.  I had a long list of both personal and work-related errands that I’d been putting off all week that could not be ignored any longer.  By 8:30 AM I put on my coat and scarf and checked to see if my black cloud had decided to come along and keep me company. 

Me and You, we’re stuck like glue, it whispered. 

Well then, I thought.  Let’s go and get this over with. 

My first few stops were pretty uneventful.  I’m quite sure that I had a sour look on my face, very sure that I had defined dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep, and to top off my haggard look- had my hair stuffed under a ball cap.  Me and the public had an unspoken understanding.  I left them alone and they left me alone. 

But then, something unexpected happened.  I was at my last stop of the day: Panera Bread.  I was there to pick up some soup for my employer’s lunch and the place was packed – at least 10 people were in front of me.  And as I stood there silent, impatient, tired and frazzled, the woman in front of me turned to face me and said, ‘You are wearing such a pretty scarf.  It looks so nice on you.  Did you make it?’  I looked at her, stunned for a moment.  I was sure that my I need my space face was still very much present.  But then, I smiled – a genuine smile, and looked down at the scarf I’d made years ago.  You realize what’s happening here, don’t you, Ellen? I thought. You are being given a random act of kindness.  I looked back at this woman who was still gazing at me with a smile and said, ‘Thank you.  I did make it, many years ago.  It was one of the very first things I’d ever crocheted.’

We chatted while waiting in line to order, and by the time I left the restaurant, soup in hand – I felt….different.  Better.  The cloud had thinned out a bit and I was a little closer to feeling like ‘me’ again. 

Even though I didn’t officially complete my exercise for the week, I couldn’t have come up with a more fitting example of how good it feels to do or say something nice to someone unexpectedly.  The only difference is that I was supposed to be writing about how it made me feel as the giver, not the receiver.  And as I write this today, the one thing I find interesting is that when I was giving examples about this week’s exercise on Monday I wrote: 

Can you remember a day when a perfect stranger passed you by and stopped long enough to say how much they admired your scarf? Your hair? Your smile?  Think about how that simple gesture made you feel.  Perhaps you walked a little taller, a little prouder that day.

She admired my scarf, and I felt better.  That’s all it took. 

And actually, I think I did walk a bit taller for the rest of the day. 

 

I want to thank each and every one of you for leaving me a note of condolence.  You weren’t even aware of it, but you produced your own random act of kindness with your kind words.  They helped me through a very rough week.  I’m terribly lucky.

 

Have a great session today, everyone. 

XO,

~Ellen

Hate-Loss Challenge Topic List: Week Four

Here we are in Week Four of the second annual  Hate-Loss Challenge.  In this final week, you have the option of choosing one, or both of the following exercises.

Option One:  Pay It Forward

When we’re feeling particularly down about our looks, our lives, or our past, we can easily become self-absorbed by those feelings.  We lose perspective on the fact that there are people within our reach who love us and need our love as well.  Reaching out to others is a wonderful way to help build self esteem.  Can you remember a day when a perfect stranger passed you by and stopped long enough to say how much they admired your scarf? Your hair? Your smile?  Think about how that simple gesture made you feel.  Perhaps you walked a little taller, a little prouder that day.  You can achieve that same feeling by engaging in acts of kindness towards others.  Random acts of kindness not only boosts the self esteem of others, but it also gives us a sense of purpose and a different perspective on life.  By showing kindness towards others, we become more open to acts of consideration towards us.  The world feels a bit brighter; a bit better place to live.

According to Mental Health America, ‘Research indicates that those who consistently help other people experience less depression, greater calm, fewer pains and better health. They may even live longer.  Doing good can make you feel good.  It might remind you that you’re relatively lucky; make you feel connected to others; help you feel needed; take your mind off your own worries for a while, and add a sense of purpose to your life.’

Exercise for the Week:  Show a stranger a random act of kindness and then write about it.  How did it make you feel knowing that you stepped in to make someone’s life a bit easier?  How did that person react?

By making yourself acute to your surroundings this week, you’ll most likely have several opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life.  You can choose a simple act of holding the door for a new mother trying to maneuver her stroller into a store, or paying a compliment to a passerby on his or her outfit.  If you want to go a bit bigger with this exercise, you might buy that cup of coffee for the person standing in line behind you at your local café hangout, help an elderly person find his or her car in a parking lot, or take a stuffed animal to your local hospital and leave it for a child in need.  No matter what you do, embrace the feeling you will get in knowing that you’re making someone else’s life better – even if it’s only for a moment. That is a major self esteem-booster. 

 

Quote for the Week:

No kindness, however small, is ever wasted.

~ Aesop

 

Option Two:  Put yourself first

This is an alternative exercise for those innate nurturers out there.  Chances are, you already do random acts of kindness every day and rarely put yourself first.   According to a very good article in Ladies Home Journal, ‘in failing to put our own needs first, we hope or assume others will give to us as we give to them.’  But all too often, when our expectations aren’t met we’re left feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, depressed, resentful and burned out.  These feelings often come from guilt; we convince ourselves that we’re unworthy.  It is imperative that you take care of yourself and your own needs, not only for your emotional health but for your physical health as well.  ‘Freedom and joy come from simple, single acts of healthy selfishness, and each act feeds the next until suddenly you discover that you are living the honest and satisfying life you always dreamed of.’

Your exercise is to pay an act of kindness to yourself and then write about it.  What did you choose to do?  How did it make you feel afterwards?  Lovingly treat yourself to something you’ve been putting off, or wouldn’t normally consider.  Maybe you’ve been wanting a manicure or pedicure.  Arrange for some alone-time and grab yourself a glass of wine and a good book.  Get a facial, or a new haircut.  Light some candles, put on some relaxing music and take a hot bubble bath.   Whatever you decide to do, just be good to yourself, because you deserve it.   When you begin realizing your own self worth and make a point to regularly act upon it, your self esteem will only continue to grow.

 

Quote of the Week:

Be the change you want to see in the world.

~Ghandi

I hope this exercise proves to be challenging in a fun way.  You’ve all worked SO hard this month, I wanted to end this last exercise on a good note with the simple reminder that life is tough enough; if we have the opportunity to make one person’s life a bit easier – even if that person is ourselves – it will surely change the way we see the world.   These are great exercises to practice as often as you are able. 

Finally, discuss how your daily affirmations are going.  Are you noticing a change within yourself?  Are some words becoming easier in this third week? 

Thanks to you all for your inspiration, continuing support and unconditional love.  Have a good week and I’ll see you back here on Thursday for group therapy. 

XO,

~Ellen

Group Therapy Thursday: Week Three

If I had one wish right now, it would be this:  to live the rest of my life free from regret.  Specifically, regret fueled by fear.   I’m very good at coming up with reasons why I shouldn’t challenge myself.  It’s not the right time…. Tomorrow is another day….  Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be….  This isn’t something that I really needed to do, anyway….  Oh, I could go on all day long making excuses as to why I shouldn’t push myself out of my safety zone, but it all comes back to the one thing I’m really doing –  making excuses because I’m afraid.

My Comfort Zone Challenge:

There is a really nice, very personable woman who works at the doggie daycare place where we board Brulee and Emmie.  Whenever we drop the dogs off, whether for the day or for the week, ‘Pam’ is always there with a smile and a kind word.  Mind you, we’ve been taking Brulee there for over 5 years so I’ve seen and talked with Pam many times.  We have a lot in common, and so I got this great idea that I should ask her out for lunch.  Simple task?  For me, absolutely not.  Initiating any kind of casual get-together with someone I barely know is an excruciating task for me.  Who doesn’t have a fear of rejection?  Of putting yourself out on the line?  The thought of a potentially awkward silence followed by a possible ‘Um, no thank you’ as the outcome?    Ugh.  Just thinking of it gives me a gut ache. 

Yet, I’ve been thinking about asking her for a couple of months but always found excuses not to.  I was afraid of feeling rejected.  Of looking desperate.  Oh, who knows what else.  Anxiety-driven minds are good at producing loads of unrealistic scenarios.   Long story short, a few weeks ago I got up enough nerve to email the doggie daycare owner and ask for Pam’s email address.  Yes! I thought. Email, I can do!  Except that I neither received a response from the owner OR from Pam. 

So, I asked my husband,’What do you think that means?’  He said, ‘I think it means that the owner probably forgot to mention it to Pam.  You know chaotic things are over there.’  Okay, yes.  That could be a possibility.  So, a couple more weeks pass along until my husband loads up the dogs to take them to camp for a day. Hey….I know!   I’ll have hubby do my dirty work for me!   I instruct my husband to mention to Pam that I’d like to take her out to lunch sometime as he casually passes the dogs off to her, which he does.

‘What did she say?’ I ask.  ‘She said that sounded like a great idea and that she’d tie her phone number around Brulee’s leash before I pick them up after work.’  Great!  That worked out pretty well, right? 

But it didn’t.  There was no phone number on the leash when the dogs came home that night. 

So, just to make sure you’re all caught up – this makes two failed attempts at what should have been a very simple task if it had been performed the correct way – by me in person.  Instead I was left with these nagging questions:  did she get my request for her email and ignore it?  Did she absentmindedly forget to attach her phone number, or did she deliberately forget? Maybe she just doesn’t want to have lunch with me.  I was starting to become embarrassed by the whole thing (I’m not in grade school after all – adults do these kinds of things all the time, dammit!!)  Yet, as time passed I was finding excuses not to go there to pick up items for the dogs.  I was having my husband do it, instead.  This situation I’d created was starting to control me.  Uh-uh.  I cannot have any of that. 

So, what am I going to do?  Refuse to go into this place ever again because of this one thing?  No, I am not.  I am going to do what I should have done in the first place.  I’m going to drive over there and ask her out to lunch, face to face. 

Yep.  That’s what I’m going to do.  The dogs need food anyway.

Cue to the present.  This week’s challenge. 

Before I allowed my mind to talk me out of it, I got into the car and drove over there.  I put my brain on auto-pilot and refused to think of anything else other than what I was going to say.  I’d have plenty of time to think about it afterwards, anyway. 

When I walked in through the door, Pam was there taking some information from a customer.  I went straight over to the dog food. 

it was extremely chaotic.  There were dogs both coming and going, there was barking and slobbering and licking and people shopping in the doggie boutique -  and I wasn’t even sure if I’d get the chance to speak with her.  After a few moments I started becoming seriously anxious and decided to pay for my dog food and just leave.  That’s when she came up behind me and said, ‘Hi!’  I turned around and she gave me a hug.   ‘Hi!’  I said.

We chatted for a few minutes and then right before she left to get back to work I said, ‘I’ve been meaning to ask you if you’d like to go out for lunch sometime.’  She said, ‘Oh, I know – that’s what your husband said.’  …Pause…  I said, ‘I know how busy you are, but if you ever get a free moment and would like to go out, just give me a call.’  She said, ‘Yeah, I am crazy busy right now.’  We chatted for a few moments more and then she had to get back to work so I paid for my dog food and then left.

 

Now, I know that some of you may be thinking, That sure didn’t sound like a satisfying ending.’   Well, in a way it wasn’t.   It would have been nice if she’d sounded a little more willing but you know, I took it a lot better than I thought I would.  It didn’t devastate me.  It didn’t leave me feeling like a loser who can’t acquire any friends on her own.  I’m sorry that Pam didn’t want to have lunch with me but honestly, it’s really okay.  I’m just so happy that I finally stopped using excuses, went out there, and took a chance.  That’s the important thing. 

Final Thoughts: 

There isn’t always going to be a happy ending every time I challenge myself because life just doesn’t work that way.  But if there was ever a time when I needed an exercise to go hand-in-hand with the positive reinforcement sheet I’ve been using all month, this was it. If I hadn’t been practicing my affirmations, I could have easily berated myself over what happened.  All kinds of unhealthy thoughts and feelings would have likely flowed into my mind after my offer was declined.  But none did.  I didn’t allow it.  

Those words of light really do stick if you say them enough.  It’s amazing, but they really do.

I’m looking forward to reading about how you did this week.  Have a good session, everyone.

XO,

~Ellen  

Warning: Exercising the mind may cause pain and discomfort in the neck and butt.

Many of you have reached out to me in email with concerns over how difficult my weekly topics have been.  First, to those of you who have emailed me stating that you’ve tried to do the exercises but it’s just not possible for you right now, that is perfectly okay!  I never wanted this challenge to be something that would have such negative effects on its participants.  I realize that what I’m asking you to consider, ponder, and think about doing each week can, for some, take months – even years to complete.  This challenge was meant to be an invitation to realize your worth.  Nothing more.  Nothing less. 

I have also been reading opinions that I proposed an unfair question:  Spend at least 10 minutes going about your life believing that you are perfect exactly as you are right at this moment.

Never did I mean perfect in the sense of ‘complete and utter perfection.’  Obviously, no one is perfect, nor should we strive to be perfect in that sense. Perhaps I should have made that clearer in last Monday’s topic list post.  If the word perfect confused any of you, please accept my apologies. 

I made a comment on someone’s blog that I’d like to repost below. It clarifies what my intentions of last week’s exercise were: 

I think that we all struggle with the inner turmoil we experience when we’re asked to take some time and accept ourselves as perfect the way we are. We automatically think, ‘but I’m NOT perfect; this is NOT where I want to be, so how can I truthfully think/say it?’ What it’s really all about it just knowing that in this MOMENT, there is no other place to be. ‘Here’ is all we have, and if we keep making ‘here’ a miserable place to be by wishing it were other things, then we’re really missing out…
If you ever decide to do the exercise again, maybe think of it that way; realize that ‘here’ is your perfect place to be.

I also received several emails from women who simply couldn’t accomplish the exercise due to certain mental blocks.  They were becoming frustrated with themselves and I completely understand why that would be.  I am asking you to challenge your thoughts, your beliefs, your habits and then confront them (as much or as little as you can, of course) in a matter of days so that you can write about your experience.  If you are having mental blocks with these exercises, don’t feel like you’ve failed just because you cannot complete the task; remember: it took me years and years before I was ready to confront my days of being bullied as a child.  It didn’t happen overnight, so allow yourself the time you need to work through your pain – however long that may be.   And, if this challenge is just not working out for you right now, I suggest a proposal:  commit to using your positive affirmation sheet.  You can only gain from repeating kind words to yourself long after this challenge is over, so I hope you will keep that up; that, and follow along with the others’ updates.  We all have a lot to learn from the women who have been really pushing themselves to get to the heart of certain issues and they could use our support and attention.   Plus, it’s quite possible that you may read something that will give you the clarity you need to begin your emotional work.

 

Finally, just a few words to remember:  Expecting to go from low self-esteem to embracing acceptance and respect for ourselves in a matter of days or a few weeks is unrealistic.    If we haven’t yet learned to walk, how can we be expected to run and cross the finish line of a race?  Change does not come overnight, so look at these exercises the same way you look at your exercise program: when you decided that you wanted to begin running, did you start with a 3 mile sprint?  No.   You walked; and every day, you walked a bit farther until you had enough strength to start running in small intervals.  When you started kettlebells, or decided to commit to Insanity or Bootcamp, was it easy?  I bet not.  You knew that you were going to have to push your body in order to see the changes you wanted.  Eventually though, the pain you experienced became less frequent because you were gaining strength in return.  This Challenge may be a bit different because the types of exercises we’re doing are different, but the outcome is still the same:  if you want to see change, at some point you’ll need to do the work. 

Keep those emails coming in.  I am always open to your thoughts and feelings on this Challenge and respect your opinions. 

See you back here tomorrow for group therapy.  Have a great Wednesday, everyone.

~Ellen

Hate-Loss Challenge Topic List: Week Three

As of today, we are just over halfway through with this challenge.  I don’t know about you, but the posts I’ve read over the past two weeks have been so incredible to read, I’m speechless.  All I can say, is:  you brilliant, brave, beautiful women out there – the support you bring to this blog and to those who read your updates go beyond my biggest hopes.  Thank you. 

 

HLBadgeJan

Weekly Topic List:  Week Three

Today’s topic will begin with a couple of definitions: 

The definition of Self-Esteema confidence in oneself, a satisfaction of what one is and the self respect that that confidence brings. It is the appraisal or assessment of a person on his self worth. It encompasses a belief about one’s capacity and worthiness.

The definition of Comfort Zone: 1) a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk. 2) A situation or position in which a person feels secure, comfortable, or in control.

 

 

What do these two terms have in common, and how can one compliment the other?  According to Dr. Robert Sherfield, author of the book Everything Self-Esteem:  Healthy self-esteem is built on overcoming obstacles and moving beyond what is accepted or ordinary. It is built on overcoming your fears, insecurities, worries, and your own self-imposed limitations.  In other words, we need to move beyond our world where everything feels safe, secure and comfortable; by motivating ourselves to step beyond what is snug and cozy, we get so much in return:

  • Accomplishment
  • Pride
  • Achievement
  • Power

When we don’t challenge ourselves, we end up creating unconscious habits that end up running our lives; they chip away at our self-esteem.   But, once we’ve  stepped beyond our comfort zone, our world will never return to it’s original size – we will always be more than who we were before with one less fear to hold us hostage.

 

This week’s exercise:  Between now and group therapy on Thursday, think about an activity that would challenge your comfort zone; then, confront that fear and do it.  This is your challenge, so be as daring or as conservative as you want – but stretch yourself beyond what you think you can do.  Can’t do the exercise because you can’t think of an idea?  You’re in luck!  I’ve thought of some for you (you’ll thank me later, I promise!)

  • Wear something that you would not normally ever wear, and wear it for an entire day; or wear a hot pink or deep red lipstick instead of the low-key color you always wear.
  • Pick a day and stop apologizing for things that do not need your apology.
  • Commit to looking at everyone you communicate with directly in the eye for a day.
  • Take a class at your gym  that you’ve never taken before, even if it doesn’t seem interesting.
  • Take a day and focus on being more assertive.  Your opinion matters! 

Fear is such a driving force.  It can paralyze you.  How many times have you regretted not doing something because of your fear?  I was a living example of this for years and still have to force myself to try new things all of the time.  Last year I made up my mind to face some of my fears.  A few were small; others were a bit more challenging.  Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I failed, but this, I can tell you:  I felt better about myself after having faced my fear.  If you need some extra motivation for this exercise, I encourage you to read (or, reread) some of my comfort zone challenges over the past year: 

Eating out all by myself

Teaching myself to ride a bike (at age 41!)

Signing up for Yoga classes

Going to a party full of strangers

Talking to strangers

 

Thought for the Day:   Stepping outside our comfort zone can be extremely difficult because we feel strongly influenced by how other will see us.  How would I look to these people if I do that?  Don’t let the opinions of strangers rule your life when it’s your life you’re living. 

 

Quotes of the Week:  

Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.

~ Robert Allen

We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.

~ Max DePree

Nobody ever died of discomfort, yet living in the name of comfort has killed more ideas, more opportunities, more actions, and more growth than everything else combined.

~ T. Harv Eker

This may be a hard one for some of you, but have faith in yourself.  Look at what you’ve achieved so far this month;  you can DO this!

XO,

~Ellen

Group Therapy Thursday: Week Two

HLBadgeJan

 

For someone who’s hosting a self-esteem challenge, I suppose it wouldn’t look very good if I began this week’s group therapy by mentioning that I’ve not been in a very good frame of mind this week, was extremely hard on myself on more than one occasion and feel as though I failed miserably with this week’s exercise.  The truth is, I did have some issues, but I’m glad things happened like they did.  I realized (and I hope you do, too) that realistically, we can’t claim victory over all our struggles in one week’s time, or even one month’s time.  Making progress is the key.  So, while I didn’t feel like I earned an A+, I suppose I should be given credit for completing the exercise, right?   

 

 

First things first:  my list of questions: 

I often receive the most compliments on my hair.

What I admire most about myself when I look at my reflection is my eyes.

I take pride in my ability to connect with people.

I love the fact that I can go to yoga class and not feel insecure anymore.

My greatest quality is that I’m dependable.

 

Just out of curiosity, how many of you found the first set of questions (the ones you were just supposed to think about) much easier and faster to answer?  I know they were for me.  That part of the exercise was to show ourselves how much time we spend thinking  negative things about ourselves as opposed to positive.  Some of those answers popped into my head without any forethought at all.  That’s just sad. 

So, my list of questions were not easy to answer.  In fact, I had to finish them in stages.  When I finally did, I studied my answers for a bit and then decided that I would begin my exercise while I was doing another task:  painting my living room.  Good idea, I thought.  That way I could really concentrate on the exercise itself. 

I did pretty well, going over those positive aspects of myself while rolling the paint onto the walls.  Actually, it was kind of soothing.  I didn’t let any other thoughts get in the way.  I just focused on my exercise and my painting.  Then, about half-way through my paint job I looked around at the color I’d chosen.  Suddenly, my exercise was the last thing on my mind.  I’d just rolled the ugliest color EVER onto my living room walls without even realizing it.  I thought I’d chosen a soft taupe.  This color, now on my walls soaking up all of my positive energy was steel gray

Normally I wouldn’t be so hard on myself for such a minor mistake, but on that day the negative thoughts were shooting out of my head like fireworks.  We’ve been having some medical issues with Emmie and I hadn’t slept in three nights so I was already tired and feeling like the world was against me.  I was literally at war with myself.  I tried to maintain the integrity of the exercise by allowing negative thoughts to pass by, but the thing was – they didn’t want to pass by.  They wanted to defeat me. 

My negative Self:  …and you call yourself an artist?  How could you not know what color your were going to end up with? 

My positive Self:  It’s hard to tell what a color is going to look like by using a small paint chip.  I thought it would look all right.

My negative Self:  …you can’t do anything right. 

My positive Self:  I just need to go back to the store and get another gallon of paint and try again.  It isn’t the end of the world. 

 

But it sure felt like it at the time.  I considered putting my exercise on hold until I was better rested, in a better mood.  Just better prepared!  But then I thought, If I do this when it’s easier, then what am I going to learn from it?  I’m always going to have days when things won’t go perfectly.  Now is the time I should be practicing this. I can’t let these thoughts get the best of me.  If I do, then I’ll feel bad about myself for the rest of the day. 

Were you able to do the exercise for the given amount of time?  If not, were you able to redirect your thoughts back to the present? I managed to focus on my exercise for about 10 minutes longer but it became increasingly difficult to bring my attention back to the positive.  I chose one thing about myself – my dependability – and focused on that one when I felt like giving up. 

Did it feel any different knowing that you weren’t relying on outside sources to challenge your beliefs – that you trusted yourself to be content with the things you knew to be true about yourself?  Luckily for me, I was the only one who tried to make myself feel bad.  My husband kept saying, ‘With all of the painting you do, you’re bound to make a mistake once in a while.  Paint is an easy fix.’    Boy, my negativity was on fire that day, though.  What I wanted to say was, ‘Yeah, well that’s easy for you to say; you’re not the one who made the mistake!’  Instead, I was grateful for his attitude about the whole thing. 

Finally, discuss how things are coming along with the Positive Reinforcement Sheet.  You will be almost half-way through the Challenge by Thursday.  Where are you still struggling?  Where are you succeeding? 

Since figuring out from last week’s exercise that I needed to be alone with myself while saying my positive reinforcing words instead of inviting my entire grade school classmates along, I have been doing much better.  I think it has a LOT to do with the control I’m taking back.  If I can’t bring myself to say positive things while looking at my reflection then it’s almost like I’m allowing them to win.  That might not be the best way to describe it, because this is supposed to be about me and not them – but in a way, it’s motivating me to figure out a way to be at peace with all of this.  I’m looking forward to seeing how I do these last couple of weeks. 

Before I close my part of the session, I just wanted to repost the quote from Monday.  It’s so lovely and beautiful, I think it’s worth repeating: 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be?

~Marianne Williamson

Marianne’s quote feels so at home here.  I hope it resonates with you half as much as it has with me.

Have a good session, everyone.

XO,

~Ellen

Hate-Loss Challenge Topic List: Week Two

 

Last week we worked hard on identifying past experiences and how they affect us as adults.  This week we’re focusing on the present.  For those of us who have low self-esteem, living in the here and now sometimes isn’t the greatest place to be.  If we’re not suffering from ghosts of the past then we’re busy counting on our future to make us happy.  Our self esteem is heavily based on our ability to accept ourselves right now.  How many of us actually cherish the moment we’re in?

 

Have you ever related to any of these questions?    

I’ll go to the beach when I lose another 15 pounds.

I’m going to put off having family photos until I’m happier with the way I look.

I won’t be happy until I get to my goal weight.

When I feel better about my body/self, I’ll have the courage to do all the things I’m too self-conscious to do right now. 

 

And it doesn’t stop with just our weight or our looks.  We put off doing many things in our lives because of one thing:  FEAR.  We procrastinate because we’re afraid that we are not yet good enough right now. 

Here is an excerpt from the book, It’s All in Your Head by Stephen M. Pollan and Mark Levine:  By spending our lives planning and hoping and dreaming, we lose sight of what our life is today.  We give up an opportunity for happiness today by focusing on tomorrow.

The book goes on to say that we shouldn’t look at the present as a brief moment between the past and the future, but rather as an experience – a state of mind. If we remain trapped by our fear, if we keep waiting for future events to make us happy, then we’ll always be hoping and never really living.  Life shouldn’t be something to be endured until the future arrives. Your present should be thrilling, exhilarating, and inspiring.

 

 

Exercise for the week: Do this at some point before Thursday so you can write about the experience.

Think about the answers to these esteem-deflating questions.  How often do you carry these thought around with you on a daily basis?

My life would be so much better if I were only:

I’d be so much happier if I had a better:

I wish I weighed:

When I look in the mirror, the first thing I criticize about myself is my:

The one negative word that I use about myself over and over again is:

 

Now, answer these questions so that they can be seen by everyone reading your update:

I often receive the most compliments on my______________________.

What I admire most about myself when I look at my reflection is________________________.

I take pride in my__________________________.

I love the fact that I can________________________________.

My greatest quality is________________________.

Study your answers for as long as you feel comfortable.  Now, take a mini-vacation from your current self.  Set a timer if you have to.  Spend at least 10 minutes going about your life believing that you are perfect exactly as you are right at this moment.  Forget about your job.  Forget about your husband. Forget about your wife; your children.  Allow thoughts of your relationships, the kind of car you drive, the clothes you wear and the unfinished items on your ‘to-do’ list temporarily slip from your mind. Just for now, be present; be aware in these few moments of what it feels like to be the ‘perfect’ you that you keep longing for. 

If you find negative and/or unpleasant thoughts drifting into your mind during this time, acknowledge the thoughts but allow them to pass by like clouds in the sky and then focus on the answers to the above questions. Continue on with your exercise until your time is up.  Notice how it felt in those moments, knowing that you were enough; also notice the control you had over these thoughts. 

Were you able to do the exercise for the given amount of time?  If not, were you able to redirect your thoughts back to the present?

Did it feel any different knowing that you weren’t relying on outside sources to challenge your beliefs – that you trusted yourself to be content with the things you knew to be true about yourself?

Finally, discuss how things are coming along with the Positive Reinforcement Sheet.  You will be almost half-way through the Challenge by Thursday.  Where are you still struggling?  Where are you succeeding? 

 

 

Thought for the Day:  I am choosing to live my life now. In the moment. The future will always be just out of reach.

 

Quotes of the Week:

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.

~Carl Rogers

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be?

~Marianne Williamson

Don’t be afraid that your life will end.  Be afraid that it will never begin.

~Grace Hansen

See you back here on Thursday for Group Therapy.  Have a good Monday, everyone.

 

XO,

~Ellen

Group Therapy Thursday: Looking Back and Letting Go

 

 

 

 

Does it feel to you like we’re beginning this challenge with one of the hardest of topics?  There’s a reason for this.  No more ignoring the elephant in the room.  Let’s get right to the heart of where our self-esteem took a big nose dive.  Instead of working our way towards the inevitable, maybe we should get to the most difficult piece of the puzzle first.  It may bring us more clarity as the month progresses.  I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and dig in.  Are you? 

 

Think back to a time or place in your life when you formed negative thoughts about yourself. Why do you think you are undeserving of praise? 

 

When I was in therapy last year after my mother’s accident, I kept mentioning that I felt inadequate.  I didn’t think I was capable of being strong enough to get through whatever lay ahead. ‘Why do you feel that way?’ the therapist would ask in her usual Dr. Frasier Crane I’m Listening tone.  I sat there, not knowing what to say.  I really didn’t know the answer.  So, she wanted to go back.  Way back. 

 

Therapist: What kind of childhood did you have? 

Me:  Not a very good one. 

Therapist: Why wasn’t it a good childhood for you?

Me:  Because I was extremely bullied in school. 

Therapist: How long did the bullying last? 

Me: A few years while I was in grade school. 

Therapist:  Tell me about it…. 

 

…well, I didn’t want to tell her about it.  I didn’t want to think about it.  In fact, it took most of my adult life to completely ignore it.  Wasn’t I seeing this woman so that I could feel better?  Talking about these issues was just going to make me more upset.  But she just sat there, waiting.  And because I dislike uncomfortable silences almost as much as I dislike talking about my past, I took a deep breath, looked down at my wringing hands and started talking….

When adults were nearby, verbal bullying occurred.  Hurtful, hateful words. ‘You’re so ugly.  Everyone hates you.  You’re stupid.  I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing your clothes.  When the bell rings you won’t be able to run fast enough to get away.’ When adults weren’t nearby, physical bullying took place. Being pushed down a flight of stairs.  Being spit on.  Rocks thrown at me while walking home from school.   To those who tormented me, I wasn’t human.

Because I was bullied by my classmates I had very little social skills.  I was never invited to birthday parties. Never had sleepovers.  I was so painfully shy I wanted to disappear, so I kept quiet, kept to myself, and prayed every day that I wouldn’t be noticed by anyone, and I never told anyone what was happening to me.  Even though the bullying eventually stopped when my school closed, the seeds were planted and I entered middle school, high school and college carrying those less than feelings with me.  

My therapist wrote a few things down in her notebook and then began pointing things out to me that deep down, I was already aware of: when you’re young and impressionable, it’s very easy to believe the things you’re told. If you don’t have anyone telling you good things about yourself then you just continue to accept those untruths as fact. 

While I’ve always felt as though I’ve made peace with my past I’ve recently begun to realize that the years I was bullied has played a hand in creating the person I am today.  All this time I’ve felt that the correct thing to do was to simply ‘forget’ about the past: Yes, it was unfortunate.  It was sad.  But I’m not a child anymore.  I accept responsibility of my life and don’t label myself as a victim.  But here is where it gets tricky.  If I know these things to be true, then why is it still so hard to look at my reflection and say, I am beautiful.  I am worthy of friends. I am intelligent. 

During last year’s challenge when when I worked on the Positive Reinforcement Sheet, I would stare at myself in the mirror until my eyes welled up with tears.  I knew what I wanted to say but when I’d open my mouth I couldn’t get any words to come out.  I never really allowed myself to figure out why I couldn’t do it. Last year I chipped away at pieces of my adult past, but I never allowed myself to consider that I had to go back further than that.  I think I ended up compromising by repeating words like, ‘my husband thinks I’m beautiful,’ and thought that was good enough.  It wasn’t until I began this years challenge that I realized why I have such a hard time with that exercise.   I thought I was trying to convince myself that I was worthy, beautiful and intelligent but the truth is, I attempt to confront and try to convince them – my tormentors. As a result, I’ve changed my words a bit.  I’ve started looking into the mirror and saying, ‘I’m not ugly.  People don’t hate me.  I’m not stupid.’   I have to put to rest the idea that I am not those things before I can begin believing in the positive things that I am.

Aha.

So, the hard question from this exercise was: How can I find a way to forgive those who have hurt me?  Well, that is the million dollar question, isn’t it?  I think part of the answer depends on what our individual stories are as well as what our definition of forgiveness is.   Some of you have been hurt so badly, so deeply, that the act of forgiving seems like an impossible task.  Since every story is different, shouldn’t there be different definitions of forgiveness as well?  Some experts use the word ‘forgiveness’ in a literal sense:  they suggest that you write or call the individual and tell him/her that you forgive the hurt they’ve caused you.  Others use the term more loosely: Forgiveness is simply about no longer allowing other people to control you. I think that will be my definition of choice. 

It’s wrong for me to assume that my past was just something that happened; that it doesn’t define who I am.  When you hear phrases like, ‘I am who I am because of the experiences I’ve had in my life,’  well, I believe that’s true. Yes, I’m a bit of a loner.  I would rather have one good friend than 10 gal-pals. I’m deeply compassionate.  I fight for the underdog.  But I’ve also spent much of my adult life fretting over people who don’t like me. I gained over 100 pounds and ate to numb uncomfortable feelings I thought I’d buried.  I’ve sacrificed my own happiness in order to please those around me; and sometimes, people mistake my shyness as arrogance.  

This is the first time I’ve ever written about this part of my childhood; the people who know I was bullied can be counted on one hand.  Even my husband is only vaguely aware of what I experienced.   My choice to write about it here was not just so I could work through my own issues, but also to share that sometimes, even when we think we’re done with the past, it may not be completely done with us. If I were truly free, I would feel it in every aspect of my life.  And I don’t…..yet.   But with perseverance and finally, with this sense of understanding and clarity I’ve recently discovered, that’s going to change. My past and I need to be done with each other, once and for all. 

 

 

I’m  looking forward to spending the day visiting your blogs and reading your own stories of strength.  If you’re here for Group Therapy from another blog be sure to comment below with a link to your post so others can read and offer their support.    Have a good session, everyone.

 

XO,

~Ellen

Hate-Loss Challenge Topic List: Week One

Topic for Group Therapy Day, January 5th:     

Looking Back and Letting Go

 

This week’s exercise: Think back to a time or place in your life when you formed negative thoughts about yourself. Why do you think you are undeserving of praise? 

Was there a specific event that caused you to change the way you perceive yourself?

Is it because you’ve always been reminded of your imperfections or weaknesses?

Is it because you’re not receiving enough positive feedback from people whose opinions really matter to you?

Do you have unrealistic expectations of yourself?

Were you taught these habits from living in an unhealthy environment?

Write about it, and then ask yourself: How can I find a way to forgive those who have hurt me? How can I forgive myself?

Finally, discuss the Positive Reinforcement Sheet and how it’s working out so far.  Are there any particular words you are struggling with? Any words that are becoming easier to say?  How does it feel hearing you speak in a positive manner about yourself?

 

Remember:  Give yourself the gift of honesty here, but don’t feel pressured to write about things that you may not be ready to share with other readers.  This is YOUR exercise.  You can be as vague or as detailed as you are comfortable with.  The idea is to allow yourself to come face-to-face with the past so you can begin to put it behind you.

Thought for the Day: Sometimes, unresolved feelings cling to us without us realizing it. If you are holding on to something negative from your past, think about the feelings you carry with those memories: is it shame? Guilt? Anger? Pain? They can’t be seen, but they are there, holding you back from living the life you deserve. Forgiving the past takes away it’s control over you. It allows you to let go and begin living in the moment and for your future.

Quotes of the Week: 

"We may not know how to forgive, and we may not want to forgive; but the very fact we say we are willing to forgive begins the healing practice."

~ Louise Hay

"Holding resentment is like eating poison and waiting for the other person to keel over."

~ Unknown

“When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it.”

~ Lewis B. Smedes

 

No free-ride just because I’m hosting this challenge.  I have thought long and hard about when this negative behavior began in my life and will be spending the week working on my own post for Thursday.  Good luck to all of you with your exercises.   Remember to stop by here from your blog and link to your update post from my comments section on Thursday so other participants know how to find you and offer support.  Another reminder to those of you who don’t run a blog:  you can still participate – just post your update in my comments section on Thursday.  I don’t want anyone feeling excluded from this Challenge. 

Have a great Monday, everyone!

 

~Ellen