As a 17 year old 6th former I was crippled with low esteem. My body image was in my boots and I couldn't understand why anyone would be interested in what I had to say.
I used to dread going to parties - and when I did, I was terrified. I worried that people would laugh at me for being unpopular, a bad dancer, too quiet, too loud (you name it). I used to watch the different cliques; the sporty ones, the cool ones, the musical ones ... wondering when was I ever going to just fit in.
Instead of trying to join in the fun I used to flit about, trying to remain invisible; spending too much time in the loo, just hiding and waiting for when the time was right to go home.
Throughout my adolescence I found a way of dealing with these insecurities - drinking and smoking.
Maybe it was an attempt to look 'cooler' than I felt. It was my crutch. It made me feel 'braver' and more confident; so that I could cope and be a more interesting version of myself. Sometimes I went too far and just got annoyingly loud - but other times it carried me through those social situations. Then, when I was alone, I was able to take my mask off and be myself again.
Why am I saying all this ? For some of you this blog post will strike a chord.
If only I had known - all those years ago, that ...
"It's OK to be Yourself."
The trouble was that, as a youngster, I wasn't sure who I was - or if I even liked what I saw in the mirror.
"Why fit in - when you were born to stand out?" ~~ Dr. Seuss
Many of us have low self esteem - but for some of us it begins to affect our lives. For some, these feelings of inadequacy stop us from taking risks or we just let opportunities pass us by. If that's you, how is it holding you back?
Perhaps you haven't sought a promotion, maybe you haven't dared ask a certain person out; possibly, just getting out of bed or through the front door is a struggle.
I don't have all the answers - but what I can say is that I so empathise. I know just where you are coming from. It's hard living like this. Especially when the largest critic, is in fact ourselves. It's hard to escape. Over the years I have worked really hard at silencing the inner voice of negativity.
Admittedly, a big turning point for me was when my wonderful (then) boyfriend Michael, finally proposed. It gave me such a boost of confidence. An outward sign to everyone (including myself) that I was worth loving - warts and all. I allowed myself to truly start imagining that I didn't have to pretend any longer. Maybe the mask could start to come off?
Even today however, I do still have to work on that inner critic. Definitely its voice has become a lot quieter, as I now have a stronger resolve and manage to bat it into the long grass when I have to. But it's still there - quietly whispering. It's just my choice whether I listen.
In fairness, I think age and experience has also helped me gain more self confidence. We do tend to reach a point in our lives and say "Sod It! This is me - and it's OK." This is so empowering.
I just hope you manage to reach this point a lot earlier than I did.
But in the meantime - the struggle is real.
"Values are like fingerprints. Nobody's are the same, but you leave them all over everything that you do."~~ Elvis Presley.
In NLP, we dig deep to uncover our values - those things that motivate and drive us. You see, when we know what drives us, we can identify our purpose and this, in itself, is truly liberating. It was only when I truly understood exactly what made me tick that I started to truly accept who I was.
Not surprisingly four of my values [ the code that I live by ] have helped me define who I am today and have influenced my career. These are :
Authenticity - I have spent too many years pretending to be something that I am not. When you are able to be your true self - somehow you are set free.
Fun - Trying to fit in and worrying about doing the right thing ( by everyone else's standards ) took away my spark. Now that's all changed. I feel that we are only here for such a short time - we may as well enjoy being ourselves.
Empathy - There is a lot said about our past shaping us, and that's all well and good. I just believe that it does not have to define us in our future. So using my experience and knowledge - I feel able to better connect with clients - which helps me be of better service to them.
Empowerment - This is a biggie for me. If each day I can help someone feel a little more confident about themselves and let them see a brighter future, then it's a day well spent.
When I was a photographer, my strap-line was "Creating the best version of you." That still stands today.
Today, as my role as a Parenting and Teen Coach - I want to empower people to like the person they see in the mirror. My strap-line is "Equipping Parents and Teens with the Tools to Navigate Adolescence."
Because, lets face it - we are all different and that's just as it should be.
So long as you are happy with who YOU are and what YOU stand for - then that's a great foundation for living YOUR best life.
Let that mask drop and embrace who you are. It's a fantastic feeling.
In any given situation - we can train ourselves to think differently. You can learn to think more positively. Here is an exercise that help you do just that. : CLICK HERE :