Tag Archives: self esteem

Group Therapy Thursday: Mirror Exercise Discussion

 

hatelossbadgeHappy Thursday everyone, and welcome to our first day of group therapy for the Hate-Loss Challenge.  Last week we all downloaded a copy of Karen Anderson’s Mirror Exercise.  Today, we’ll share our thoughts about it.  Also, I’d love to know how your Gratitude Jar challenge is coming along; can you believe we’re 9 days into it already? 

 

If I’d read through this exercise a couple of years ago I would have thought it too simple a task to really change any perception I had about myself.  Clearly, I knew nothing about mirror work. Having done quite a bit of self esteem exercises since then, I knew this was definitely going to be a challenge. We’re all so used to seeing our reflections, it’s easy to get disconnected from what’s staring back in the mirror unless we work on it regularly (which personally I haven’t since before my surgery last June). 

I have to say, I think it’s interesting that a couple of you opened your eyes and found your mother’s image in the mirror; fascinating.  Although this didn’t happen to me, I did have trouble carrying out the exercise the first several times I tried it.  Holding onto it and projecting that emotion while gazing at myself was the most difficult part. I was able to gather that warm, safe, powerful feeling deep inside, but when I opened my eyes I’d lose it immediately.   Last year at this time I was practicing mirror work every day and getting pretty comfortable doing it, actually.  In fact, I continued to do it long after the challenge was over but after surgery, I never really picked it back up.   It’s obvious to me how much one can regress in a few short months.  I’m now learning to accept this ‘new’ body which has been very challenging at times.  I am getting better at it, however as with any exercise – be it training for a half marathon or doing self-esteem work, it all takes practice and diligence in order to see progress.

Other than the exercise itself (to give you a chance to see where you are on the self-acceptance ladder in your life), I felt that it was equally important to understand what physically happens to our bodies when we neglect our mental health.  Physiologically, we react negatively to stress – specifically stress that we bring onto ourselves when we direct negative and harmful words inward.  We all have the ability to rid ourselves of this kind of self inflicted abuse.  We are all worthy of praise and love and acceptance, aren’t we?  It is well within our control to change the way we feel about ourselves.  I hope you’ll consider using this exercise or other kind of mirror work after today.  It really can make a difference.  

How did you do? 

Did you run into any obstacles when trying to complete this exercise?  If so, were you able to work around the obstacle in order to finish it?  What are your thoughts on the scientific explanation of why it’s so important to have a healthy attitude? 

Remember, Karen is giving away a copy of her book to a lucky participant and in order to enter you must comment in THIS post about your experience in doing the Mirror Exercise.  If you have a blog and write a post about today’s exercise, please link your post in the comments section below so that other group members can read and share their thoughts with you.  If you don’t own a blog, please use my comments section for this week’s update and you’ll be automatically entered for Karen’s book giveaway.  A winner will be announced at random on Monday, January 14th.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting our next exercise for discussion on Thursday, January 17th.  Thanks for participating everyone, and have a good session!

xo,

~Ellen

There are Fairies in my Garden

For today, my blog name has informally changed.  Instead of Fat Girl Wearing Thin, I welcome you to Garden Girl Wearing Overalls (OK, not so terribly clever, but hey – it’s only for a day.) 

As you know, last Friday was my Fairy Garden class.  When I showed up, Patti the shop owner welcomed me with open arms and exclaimed, ‘It’s just you and me this morning!’  It seems that out of the 5 classes she was offering, I was the only one who could make it at 10:00 a.m. on a Friday morning.   I admit I was a little bit disappointed at first, as I was hoping to meet some other gardeners, but Patti and I ended up having one of those instant connections, talking nonstop the entire class, so it was actually very nice to have her expertise all to myself.

So, what does one need for a fairy gardening class?  First, you need a container.  Preferably one that has good drainage and isn’t too deep.  I decided on a shallow plastic bowl that was about 14 inches in diameter – the perfect size to fit into this more decorative, resin pot.

Then comes the fun part: searching for miniature decorations.  Every fairy has to have a place to live and so, it was most important to find the right house.  I could have purchased one, but it was much more fun to make one myself.

This happened to be a basic, unfinished birdhouse in its previous life.  I sawed off the perch, used an old drawer knob to cover the hole (which you can see right under the roof) and glued pieces of sycamore tree bark to the outside so it would look more woodland-like.  The door is a plastic doorknocker, and the window is just some twigs fashioned together with wire. 

 

I filled the bowl with dirt, decided on a design, and started moving the dirt around to form a creek bed, seating area and a place for my house.  I planted some moss that I’d bought at a local garden center, and then carefully placed my decorations in various areas within my garden.

 

A table and chairs for my fairies to sit.

 

See the urn just to the left of the front door?  It’s about 2 inches high and it’s holding a live plant inside.

 

One more photo with a backdrop of the beautiful zinnias that are blooming in my yard right now.

 

Not bad for my very first garden, if I do say so, myself!  All of the decorations I used (except for the house, of course) were for sale at the shop, but for my next garden I intend to make everything myself.  I’ve been tinkering around with ideas all weekend and have already started making things.

 

Here is a table and garden bench, which is just stones glued together. Twigs make up the arm rests.

 

And here is a birdbath I made out of twigs, wire and a seashell.

 

I found this kind of gardening to be very therapeutic.  It was kind of like being a kid again, playing make-believe.  It’s calming and relaxing, and I’m pretty proud of myself for taking the initiative to be spontaneous by signing up for the class.

 

 

The above Fairy Garden has been entered in the Fairy Garden Competition at The Magic Onions.

The Yes-Girl Has Retired

I’ve posted before about my struggles in being a Yes Girl.  Doing things for others was an all-consuming task for me.  If I was helping one person paint his/her bedroom in the morning and was asked to help another move in the afternoon, I’d say ‘Sure.’   If there was something going on in my life – if it was hectic or stressful, I couldn’t find it within me to say ‘enough’ because, in my mind, people wouldn’t like me.  I carried on like this for years.  I’d do my part of being a good friend, never taking into consideration that I might need something in return.  

When I was in my early thirties I remember my sister saying to me, ‘Ellen, you just need to learn to say No to people.  If they don’t want to hear it or if their opinion of you changes because of it, that’s their problem, not yours.’  That is probably the best advice she’s ever given me.

Jeannie is ten years older than  I.  When she first gave me this piece of advice she was the same age that I am now.  Back then I couldn’t imagine saying no to anyone for any reason.  I refused to give that idea any thought whatsoever because it was so foreign to me.  Now, at 41, I can honestly say that times, they are a changin’.  I don’t feel the need to make people like me anymore. I’ve learned to accept me on my terms, not by someone else’s.  I’m free from the idea that my life isn’t as important as those around me, and I’m free (for the most part) of the guilt that has attached itself to these unhealthy thoughts.

I’ve always envied the fact that the men in my life seem to have a better handle on this kind of thing than I do. They seem to have a kind of self-confidence that many women struggle with. I thought of this recently when I recalled something my father once said to me. He’s been gone now for 13 years, but the memory came to me the other night as I was trying to fall asleep. Always remember that you teach people how to treat you. He’d be proud of the fact that I finally got it, even if it didn’t happen overnight.

1.  First, I had to take responsibility for myself and my actions.  I had to decide how I wanted to be treated.

2.  Second, I realized why I couldn’t say no to people: because it made me feel guilty.  I was allowing myself to be taken advantage of because I couldn’t deal with the guilt I’d feel if I stood up for myself.

3.  Lastly – and this was the big hurdle: I had to begin standing up for myself.  This is a constant work in progress because by nature, I’m a nurturer.  People don’t like change, especially when they are no longer benefitting from it.

It’s no doubt that age brings unwanted baggage with it:  you get aches that weren’t there before; gravity slowly becomes your enemy, and you start squinting a bit more when reading the fine print on that bottle of Aleve you now have to keep with you wherever you go.  But I can say one thing that’s come with age which has brought me a deep level of satisfaction: the people pleaser is retiring. 

Hate-Loss Challenge Group Therapy Day: Week 2

Welcome to Group Therapy Day
Week Two!

I hope everyone participating had a chance to venture around to other people’s blogs last week and read his/her update post. If you are posting an update today, please link your post in the comments section below if CommentLuv doesn’t do it automatically and check the notify me of follow-up comments box so you can receive everyone’s updates via email.  

I read some very powerful, truly amazing posts last week.  I hope that each of you are feeling as though you’re gaining something positive through this experience.  I mentioned last week that because of my struggles I was going to read a couple of books to help put me in the right frame of mind.  I began reading The Everything Self-Esteem Book by Dr. Robert M. Sherfield, Ph.D.  It has been a tremendous aid in helping me work though my self esteem issues.  I have a couple of quotes that I would like to share if you find yourself aching for but are struggling with the idea of change:

The hardest part about change is that when change occurs, everyone returns to the bottom of the ladder – and no one likes to be at the bottom. ~Dr. Robert Sherfield, Ph.D. The Everything Self-Esteem Book

The first step toward change is acceptance.  Once you accept yourself, you open the door to change.  That’s all you have to do.  Change is not something you do, it’s something you allow. ~Will Garcia; quote taken from The Everything Self-Esteem Book

On Tuesday I mentioned that I had a little breakthrough while at the Blue Man Group show in Chicago.  As we were waiting for the show to begin, a trio of middle-aged women came and sat down directly behind us.  One of the women sat directly behind my left side.  She happened to be a very loud talker.  Not only that, but she commented on everything.  If there was something to read, she read it out loud to her lady friends; then she commented on what she read.  If something caught her attention she’d very loudly describe it to the other two women as though they were both blind and sitting on the other side of the theater.  And her voice – like nails against a chalkboard, people. 

As she continued to talk, I noticed people on either side of me turning around to give her ‘the look’ to which she was oblivious.  People several rows in front of me were turning around to see who was being so offensive. 

If this event had happened before beginning this challenge, I can already tell you what would have happened.  I would have had immediate feelings of utter defeat.  My night would have been considered completely ruined because,

‘I can never catch a break.’

‘Why can’t things ever seem to work out for me?’

‘I’m too wimpy to stand up for myself.’ 

‘I’m nothing more than a pushover.’ 

‘What’s wrong with me?’ 

Do you see how the initial unhealthy thought eventually drifted towards a personal attack on myself?  Speaking from years of experience, the minute I allow those thoughts to seep in they take hold like an iron grip and it’s nearly impossibly to break myself free.  This time however – was different.  I immediately directed my thoughts toward the Challenge and ran through 3 possible scenarios:   

  1. gain some courage, turn around and politely but firmly tell her to be quiet.
  2. sit and wallow in self-pity through the entire show while feeling like the world is against me;  forever remember my night at Blue Man as ‘just another reminder that I fail at everything I do.’
  3. make a conscious decision that it was I who would determine whether or not the night was a success. 

As those negative thoughts tried to worm their way into my mind I held firm and decided that I was going to have a good time. I deserved to be there as much as anyone else.  If my night was ruined it would be because of a decision that I made.  The choice was mine and I had to own it.

So, I looked over to my husband and instead of saying ‘I can’t believe this is happening.  She is going to ruin our whole night!’  I decided to make light of the situation.  I turned to my husband and joked about it; I imitated her voice and started reading things at random, and we both had a good laugh.  When the show started, I worked like hell but eventually I was able to completely block her out of my mind and enjoy the show.  She did eventually settle down, thank God, but at a prior event – it would have been too late; the night would have already been ruined. 

I realize this may not sound like a miracle breakthrough but for personal reasons,  it was a pretty huge deal.  I left that theater in a great mood.  Instead of wanting to call it a night and silently sulk, we went out to dinner and had a wonderful time.  The connection finally clicked: attitude can truly change everything; by taking control before those negative, depressing thoughts took hold, I was actually able to change the outcome of a situation that I previously would have thought had control over me.

I may be at the bottom of the ladder but hey, at least I’m finally on the ladder.

 

Have a great session, everyone.

 

HL Challenge: Group Therapy Day

Welcome to Group Therapy Day, Week One.  

Before I begin with my progress report I’d like to say how amazed I am at the willingness of so many who have agreed to participate with me.  There are some wonderful new faces who’ve joined, and I’m grateful to have a few faithful readers along side for this challenge as well.  Two in particular I’d like to mention:

First, The Fat Mom gave me a sneak peek of her post last night.  She bravely and beautifully did hers on video and I went through almost a whole box of Kleenex while watching it.  Grab yours and watch her here.

Next is Tim from Fat.Boy.Thin.  Tim is a trooper, as he is the only man that I am aware of who has agreed to participate.  He blogged about Day Two of the Challenge on Sunday and I’m thrilled that we have a man’s perspective on this topic.  You’re welcome to read his Sunday post here.

Today is Day Six of the Hate-Loss Challenge.  I officially started on Saturday and had my printouts in place: one on my bathroom mirror, one in my purse, and one on my refrigerator.  On Saturday, I thought of a phrase in my head that I thought I would feel comfortable saying, went over to the mirror, looked at myself for a moment and said, ‘I have beautiful eyes.’  Not so difficult, right?   Wrong.  I glanced away before I could finish the sentence.  I immediately felt like a fake; I actually had fleeting thoughts that I was being egotistical (if you can believe that one) and left the bathroom.  I went on like this all day.  Determined, but unable.  Willing, but frustrated.

By Sunday I decided to change direction; I began by stating the obvious.  While doing push-ups I said, ‘I am doing more push-ups than I was a month ago.  I am stronger.’ That sat pretty well with me; I couldn’t argue that point.  I am stronger.  OK, I thought.  I’m making progress.   But each time I’d go back to the bathroom and try to compliment myself in the mirror, I’d shrink like a wilting violet.  Why can’t I just DO THIS? I think to myself.

Tuesday’s post was never intended to be published. I was going to wait until Thursday and then post my progress.  But I couldn’t wait until then. I was struggling and that only made me feel more incompetent.  I didn’t realize that I was asking for support….but you knew.  Those of you who caught my post did more than just respond.  You planted my feet firmly back on the ground and steadied me for my next attempt.  

And you’ve made me realize something: When I finally AM able to say phrases like, I’m beautiful; I embrace my curves; I love my smile - and not feel like crawling out of my skin, then I will have accomplished the equivalent of having trained for and completed my first marathon.  Expecting to go from one extreme to another is setting myself up for failure.  If I haven’t yet learned to walk, how can I be expected to run and cross the finish line of a race?  Simply put, I cannot.

So, here is my weekly update as of today: I’ve been spending the last couple of days talking to myself more than usual.  I am making a conscious effort to say things that I cannot argue with.  When driving, I say, ‘I am a good driver.’  When my husband comes home from work I say, ‘My husband thinks that I am beautiful.’  I revisit a few of my favorite paintings and say, ‘Here is a lovely piece of artwork that I created.’ 

That’s what I can do this week.  And that’s OK.  Small steps; one day at a time.

 

Before closing today’s post, I want to express a few thoughts with the rest of you.  I’m sure you were all aware that the printout sheet was meant to be used as a guideline.  I have had to modify mine and encourage you to please remember to tailor your printout to fit your specific needs.  Change words, add new words, or crumple it up, throw it away and make up your own. This is YOUR challenge, your pace. 

Second, we all know that change does not come overnight, so look at this challenge the same way you look at your exercise program: when you decided to be a runner, did you get up on day one and run 2 miles without stopping?  No.  When you started Jillian Michaels 30 day Shred, did you begin on Level 3? Probably not.   There is no such thing as instant success.  Change takes work. Discipline. Determination. 

Third, I plan on reading a couple of books to help further push me into the right direction. If you are wavering and having extreme difficulty with this challenge, please consider checking out a book from the library on self-esteem as a tool to help you along.  I plan on reading the following:

  • The Courage to Be Yourself: A Woman’s Guide to Emotional Strength and Self-Esteem by Susan Patton Thoele

  • The Everything Self-Esteem Book: Boost your Confidence, Achieve Inner Strength and Learn to Love Yourself by Robert M. Sherfeild

I’m determined; I hope you are, too. 

I encourage you to visit any links left below by others who are participating. Visit his or her blog; encourage, share, and offer words of wisdom.  Don’t forget to check the box below the comments section if you want ALL replies from today’s post sent to your email address.  Otherwise, leave it blank and be aware that you will have to revisit this post periodically to check for any new comments.  Also, I’ve been made aware that CommentLuv is slow-moving in catching latest posts, so if your progress post doesn’t come up when you click on the box, please manually enter the name of your blog post within the body of your comment so that others can find you.

Have a good session, everyone.

No More Magic Tricks Here at Home.

Throwing around negative words about myself makes me feel like a magician sometimes.  One minute the derogatory comment is there and then POOF! I’ve moved the listener on to the next trick that’s so twinkly and bright, they don’t even realize what’s happened.  I’ve become quite good at it actually, this art of being negative.  The funny thing is, until recently I wasn’t even aware I was doing it. 

When I first decided that I was going to work on my mental health – in particular, my, ahem……self-loathing, it was solely because it was brought to my attention front and center.  After my mother was struck by a hit-and-run driver last July,  I began going to therapy.  After the first few sessions, my therapist wanted to know if I was aware that I put a negative ‘spin’ on comments when I spoke.  No, I said. I try to be a positive person.  I know fully well that things could always be worse.  However, as I continued to talk she’d interrupt me over and over again – pointing out every time I used the words couldn’t, don’t, can’t, shouldn’t, and won’t. With every positive phrase I tried to say, a negative word or phrase would quickly follow.  By the time I left, I was so frustrated – so borderline furious that my sentences were being monitored and critiqued it left me emotionally drained for days afterward. 

Being made aware was the easy part, let me tell you.  Changing the way one communicates however, is like being told that from this moment forward you no longer speak your native tongue.  Now, you must suddenly speak German or Italian.  No more English for YOU. 

I didn’t want to feel like a hypocrite, and I certainly didn’t want to be ‘that’ person who mentally drains everyone around her because she ‘sucks all of the good energy right out of a room’.  It’s funny, because I always thought I was a glass is half full kind of gal.  I guess I never took the time to notice that it was hall full all right, but not of water; rather some cloudy, stagnant version of water.

Have you ever heard of the phrase, ‘Good deeds begin at home?’  That is where I decided to start – at home; in my head where all of those sour little thoughts lie in waiting; where negativity breeds.  How do I emit positive energy if I refuse to give any to myself?   I have to believe positive things about myself first before I can start incorporating that kind of behavior throughout the rest of my life. 

I’m tired. I can’t fake it anymore.  This is where the challenge begins. 

Hate-Loss Challenge begins in 16 Days

First of all, I want to thank each and every one of you who agreed to participate in  The Hate-Loss Challenge of 2011.  There is strength in numbers, and I’m very excited about such an outstanding group.   So far I am aware of 10 people who have committed by posting on the comments section of my Challenge page (which you can link to at the beginning of this post or via my sidebar.  If you are hearing about this for the first time today and would like to participate, just leave a comment on my challenge page letting me know that you’re in, get the badge from there as well and add it to your blog if you have one.

If you are unsure as to whether or not you need or want to participate, answer this question:

As you are trying to lose or maintain your weight, do you often belittle yourself in the process, beat yourself up by using words like lazy, stupid, unattractive, failure?

If you answered yes, then I encourage you to join us. What happens to a person who spends all of her time trying to  achieve a strong and conditioned body while allowing her mind to fill itself with negative, belittling thoughts? She becomes a thin person who still thinks she’s all of those things.  Thoughts like that rarely disappear just because the weight does. It takes conscious effort to rid yourself of negative thoughts. Trust me, I have experience in this area.

This is how the schedule will run:  The official start of the challenge is January 1st, 2011 and will run until January 31, 2011. Sometime before January, print out a copy of the challenge and keep it in a place where you will see it every day: on your bathroom mirror, in your car, in your purse, on your nightstand.  When you say the words, I strongly encourage you to say them out loud.  It is important to listen to the words which are describing you coming out of your own mouth, and it validates the word(s) you are saying.  

 

I will put up a reminder post on Wednesday afternoons encouraging everyone that’s participating to comment on their blog  the following day (Thursday) as to how their challenge is going for the week; if you would be so kind, come back here and let others know so that he/she can link back to your blog and read your progress. 

You do not need to run a blog to participate.   I plan on posting my thoughts on how things are going every Thursday during the month of January, so you are welcome to post your progress under that post. 

Sixteen days, everyone!

Monday Musings: A breakthrough and a do-over.

When I was in my twenties and early thirties I carried around more than just weight.  I was painfully shy and felt out of place in my own skin. That, combined with the fact that I also had no self esteem made me feel invisible to others.  I would avoid social situations like the plague.

When I did have to attend an event and was introduced to someone I’d never met before, this is how I imagine it went:

MY THOUGHTS:  she’s not going to find me interesting.  I should just keep my mouth shut.

HER THOUGHTS: It’s like she’s pretending I’m not even here.

MY THOUGHTS:  I’d just say something stupid.

HER THOUGHTS:    What, she thinks she’s too good to talk to me?

MY THOUGHTS:  Maybe if I just talk to people I know, I can hide the fact that I want to crawl under a rock.

HER THOUGHTS:    Wow, she is really stuck up.

Of course, I didn’t realize that I was coming across as pretentious or stuck-up.  I actually thought that I was so unimportant, so invisible, no one would notice if I didn’t speak.  Those feelings obviously haunt me, even today.

Wallflower

 

Just last week, I was at Sephora.  I don’t like to go in there because I can get a tad overwhelmed sometimes.  I cannot explain why. Maybe I’m subconsciously intimidated by all of the makeup tools they carry in their front pockets.   Maybe it’s because they all wear black and therefore look as skinny as a beanpole.  Who knows.

Anyway, I had been in the week before and one of the sales consultants remembered me.  ‘Me?’  I thought.  She must be confusing me with someone else.  ‘No, see…I was here looking for something but it was out of stock and I just wanted to come back and see if……’  Before I’d finished she said, ‘Yeah, wasn’t it shampoo you were looking for?’  I was stunned.

You know what the most unsettling part for me was? On my way home, I tried to reason with myself as to why she remembered me.  She must be in this type of job because of her memory.  Yes.  She has an exceptional memory.  And she has exceptional sales ability. She is special.

That is a possibility.  Maybe the average sales person wouldn’t have remembered me.  But why should I always assume that’s true?  Why do I feel like I should I have a face that is so mundane and unremarkable that it isn’t worth remembering?

There was a study done a while ago that has always stuck with me – I don’t remember any detailed facts about it at the moment but it went something like this:

Two women walked into a social setting.  One woman was stunning to look at but her personality lacked character, depth and interest.  Another woman entered the same social setting; she was average-looking.  However, her personality was warm, inviting, and it drew people to her.  When asked which was the more attractive of the two women, the respondents replied that the average-looking woman was considerably more pleasing.  Her personality, charm, the way she carried herself made her more physically appealing to those around her.

I have been thinking a lot about last week’s comfort zone challenge.  I received a lot of great feedback from people who gave me advice on how to better approach people.  Shantell mentioned smiling more and offering a compliment as a conversation starter.  These are great pieces of advice.  But in order to try these things, I have to believe I can do them.  And that day, I didn’t.

Here is the truth, plain and simple:  My comfort zone challenge fizzled last week because I did not exude any confidence in myself.  It wasn’t because I didn’t do anything to my hair; and it had nothing to do with the fact that I had on no makeup, either.  I smiled.  I was polite and courteous.  The fact of the matter is that I simply didn’t carry myself in a way that anyone responded to.  I did not present myself as someone worth talking to.

Each one of us is a presence in this world.  We breathe in air.  We occupy space.  We interact with others.  We are not invisible.   Once we start realizing that, we’ll carry ourselves differently and others will take notice.

I forced myself to take part in another comfort zone challenge this past Friday night.  I had to try again.  I had to put myself back in that same social situation I used to hate so much.  And I was determined to own. that. room.

Come back on Thursday for the details of my do-over comfort zone challenge.