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How to value yourself even on a bad hair day

To value yourself, warts and all, can seem like an easy thing to do on a good day, but what about when it’s not such a good day?

It’s like getting up in the morning and looking at yourself in the mirror and all you see are the less flattering features, regardless of what others say to you. It’s when you’ve gone into work and had some less welcome news or had some negative feedback, and end up feeling bad about yourself. It’s like when you’ve had a disagreement with someone and sense they might not like you so much at the moment. It’s like when things won’t go as you want them too and you feel useless.

When life doesn’t so easily go the way we’d like it to, a default position can be to revert to taking it out on ourselves in some way. This can be an old pattern of course, re-awakened by less positive events. In fact the way events go can be to repeatedly remind ourselves of our low opinion of ourselves.

Yet it doesn’t have to be like this.

To know, respect and be OK with ourselves needs to have some strong anchors to persist in the face of this stuff. This is an aspect of resilience, our ability to bounce back or to keep going in adversity, surely something many of us are being tested in during present times.

To be able to manage those negative thoughts, to be able to centre yourself, to distinguish between what the ego is telling you and your own inner knowing of who you are, and be able to hold to this in the face of adversity, these are core life skills for the seeker.

It can be so easy to have all sorts of uplifting and inspiring thoughts and ideas, but what about the real world of the everyday, what I call the mundane level of living? How do we re-affirm and sustain that core underlying awareness? Because if we don’t have that core inner faith, at some level we could be living a bit fraudulently with ourselves. Then no wonder we experience that in the world, a prevailing theme in present civic discourse (see public life around integrity, honesty, etc).

Here’s when it’s good to take time out to review where you’re going with yourself? It’s good to look at the relationship between how you live your everyday life and what you believe, and between how you view and feel about yourself both in theory and in action. And to connect and consolidate your inner faith in who you are. So you can live more as That.

Come and do that on 18 May 2013 in beautiful Wiltshire, UK. Come and take part in a course designed to consolidate you in your own empowering value of who you are. After all, you’re worth it! Book here.

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Self belief involves developing inner strength

It can be a prevalent theme in one’s life, fluctuating in one’s opinion of oneself between self doubt and positive self belief. At one moment we can be plagued by low self esteem and confidence, worrying about whether we’re “up to it” and “can make it”, what people must think of us, whether we’ve “got what it takes”, and whether we’re really OK. Then in another moment, for some reason, it shifts and we know we can do it, that we’re fine and OK, and it doesn’t matter what people think because we know we’re OK.

Whole groups, organisations and countries can do this too, and so it can be a collective thing, each in our own way, outside of awareness supporting each other in self doubt. The UK is an expert in self flagellation and we seem to be going through a mega-phase of beating ourselves up, finding fault here, there and everywhere. Nothing’s sacred.

And this is the point. The Self is sacred. At our essence we’re love, beauty and truth. Who can find fault with That? Yet even those that hold some understanding of the essential worth of the Self can indulge in periodic bouts of self flagellation. No wonder religion has a field day of it in certain cultures.

Of course we do need to be easy on ourselves, but somehow people can miss this. Self blame and thinking ill of ourselves might be where we’re at, but it isn’t who we really are. Yet, we can flip so violently into the other polarity and not believe in ourselves that it might seem that we’ve lost it, and that what we believed wasn’t true. Some people can even go so far as to ditch their whole belief system in their rage, fury and upset and some kill themselves in the process, the ultimate in retroflection.

What is important is that we have our own recovery mechanisms, and the process of self awareness and self development through some practice can help grow this strength. And inner strength is often what this is all about. We need to forgive ourselves for the hard times we’ve been having, let go (which is real forgiveness), and re-connect with our inner strength. In doing this we’re developing resilience.

I’ve been seeing a lot about resilience in the organisational development literature and practices. Businesses have been seeking ways to build resilience, both as organisations and for their people. There’s this awareness that so tough have times been that pepole go down and can’t get back up. So too in people’s personal lives.

Inner strength is a journey, not a quick fix, much though people continue to seek the latter out. The latter often is about avoiding the inner journey and yet the inner work needn’t be a hard one but needs more a sustained process to become aware of and let go of those tendencies we have to think ill of ourselves when times get difficult, become more aware of our core of inner positivity and self belief referred to above, and develop the will to bring ourselves back in touch with that core. The more we know that inner core, the stronger we get. So commitment and steadfastness is the name of the game.

I have a workshop that is designed to help you develop these abilities around self belief that I am referring to. Click here.

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To value yourself gives you your well-spring for action

As any who has battled with self esteem will tell you, a powerful impulse for action comes from a sense of inner knowing of your self-worth, when you value yourself. We’ll use different words for it and will often refer to things like self belief, valuing ourselves, knowing we are OK, that we’re worth it. We can often limit our actions, and the strategies we choose, and even the insights we come up with on which we make plans, by how we’re feeling inside about us ourselves.

It’s like, what’s the flavour of the moment today? If I’m not feeling so good, a bit down, I might not go out and see someone. If I need to maybe be looking for a new job, if I’m not so sure of myself today, I’ll not take any action or I’ll not be so adventurous or creative in the ideas I come up with for what I might go for. I might not dress myself so attractively to as to be seen in a positive light because I’m not feeling good and don’t want to “make the effort”. I could go on. What on a good day might be easy to do, effortless, and productive, may on a bad day be ruled out or not considered.

The power of getting to know inside who we really are, and to feel OK about what we find, is that we get a more effective metric for readiness for action. We can also more easily develop ways to manage our state, and deal with the ego, because we know what it really is we need to manage.

Our society is so accustomed to teaching that there are external metrics, social conventions, rules of behaviour, expectations, that we are supposed to live up to, either overt or assumed, or ones we’ve made up ourselves and internalised and made unconscious, outside of awareness. What isn’t so easy is to develop your own, inside. For starters, we many of us avoid doing that because we’re afraid of what might be revealed. After all it’s a bit of a contradiction: I limit my potential because of how I see myself but I’m afraid to go inside and find that it isn’t what I thought it is!

It’s very easy for people like me to write that we are inside beautiful beyond measure. But it’s really all just words, until each of us in our own way take that journey and find it for ourselves. When we find our own way to peel back the onion skins and make contact for example with the pure love that dwells naturally within, then we know from personal experience what that means.

Then we can live as That, in whatever that means personally for me or you. It’s a tremendous liberation. No wonder Eastern mystics use exactly that word. When you find your own inner Self, it’s so much easier to go “out there” and be as who you are.

So, you can take this journey if you wish, at your own speed, and at whatever stage in your own growth you’ve reached. You’ll know the stage by the results you get, what occurs and shows up in your life, and how you feel.

Here’s a really good start, a day to explore who you are, to develop your knowledge of yourself within as who you really are, to connect more with the love and joy that is really you and be more as That in your everyday life.

Then, as you develop this knowledge, when you need to take action, you can do so from a more positive base of inner self-knowledge, of Self-knowledge with a capital “S”. Life is then so much easier.

So, you can read more here and book your place here in beautiful Wiltshire at the height of gorgeous spring, in May 2013.

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Beating ourselves up doesn’t make for lasting peace

Have you found that the frustration, shame or disappointment you have felt for something adverse that has happened for you has been such that you’ve turned it on yourself?

Beating ourselves up can be one way of dealing with lack of success in some area of life, although not exactly the most positive way of treating the self. If we don’t take it out on others, then there’s ourselves, if that is we feel we have to “take it out” on something. The anger, shame, rage, call it what you will, needs an outlet. There’s a long history of this. If society hasn’t judged us and then punished us for our alleged transgressions, then we can do a pretty good job on it ourselves. In medieval times it also had a religious aspect too, the Flagellants, especially during the Black Death, doing penance for our perceived sins and unworthiness. At the extreme end, some people self-harm today, deliberately hurting themselves, hitting, stabbing or cutting themselves for example, often as a release for the pain they feel.

Psychologically we can beat ourselves up too, being angry with ourselves, even insulting ourselves, very much as we might imagine others might do to us. Yet when it’s over, people can report feeling at peace. Interesting that we feel we need to inflict pain on ourselves to get to peace.

For some it is an energy that really needs to be channelled outwards, as if we really want to be directing it towards others or the world. Who would we really like to direct this at? People who were taught not to get angry with others, for example, direct it at themselves instead. Those too who’ve been on the receiving end of some verbal or physical abuse, then carry it on with themselves.

We might blame ourselves for some perceived inadequacy we think we have. We might think we’re failing at something, or “no good” at something, or don’t come up to our own exacting standards. I say “perceived” because this is all so much as we see it, or we think others might see it, and we lack a detached, more balanced view of what is going on.

It is as though there is one part judging another, inadequate part of us. And this can be a crucial insight, since neither part is who we are really, but just two parts of us at war. It’s like there’s a morally superior part that sits in judgement and then there’s some poor, mean and feeble underdog that can’t “get it right”.

In beating ourselves up what we fail to see is that this is all ego, all a false identification, not who we really are. In all the anger and angst the pure, peaceful Self is obscured, seemingly obliterated in the rage and upset. So, when we’re at peace again, then we can feel It more. Not a very self-respectful way of proceeding in order to know peace. We need to find a way to be kinder and loving to ourselves all the time. They say that the body is the temple of the spirit and therefore deserves kindness and respect. The challenge is to find ways to heal our angst and anger and connect at ease with our Inner Peace, the inner contentment of the Self.

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Overcoming low self esteem through knowing who you really are

The journey of overcoming low self esteem can be a long one. However, it helps when you recognise what you are dealing with, through the power of awareness.

Much of my life was spent coping with my life challenges, but not really dealing with them. It took a series of big knock-backs for me to get that a core block in the way of my own growth was low self esteem. It’s not one that I think I liked to admit to, at least not in my culture and upbringing, where I was taught to “be strong” and put a “big smile” on my face. It took the breakup of my marriage and the death of my mother –  and the growing sense of my life going nowhere – for me to do some real work on myself and find that a core negative driver for me was my belief that “I’m not good enough”. I was told that I needed to learn to love myself, but it took me a long time to work out what that meant.

I used to drive long miles in my work listening to Whitney Houston singing “The Greatest Love of All”, in which are the lines “Learning to love yourself, It is the greatest love of all.” I used to tune inside and feel the very tiny shift inside as I heard those words. It was very little, but that was very important. Because I had spent my life working it out intellectually, and not feeling it inside. So, when I heard the words, “Learn to love yourself”, it sounded like a another lesson I had to go and read up on, when the real journey was an emotional opening up. Once I opened myself up emotionally and learned to feel inside, and after a lot of meditation and the help of a guru, I began to sense inside the love of the Self.

Learning to love yourself for me was much more the discovery that who really we are is pure love, that that is us at essence, and that it flows out all over the place and infuses the world. From that perspective, “loving yourself” only touches part of what really there, which is more about owning the essence of who we really are. In the process you cannot help but feel love for yourself, but you also feel love for everybody else, life, the universe and everything. It just Is.

So overcoming low self esteem is a journey that you can read about and work on, but there’s something much greater to find if you really embark on the journey to not only value yourself but also to become fully self aware and really know yourself. The resulting treasure is immense.

We provide training in this material which you can read about here.

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It’s hard overcoming low self esteem after a knock to confidence

It’s a big challenge for people at present in these difficult times, maintaining self belief, confidence and self esteem in the face of knock-backs and rejections. I’m thinking particularly of job seekers, but it can also apply to the self employed and to those with financial difficulty, illness or other challenges that life can seemingly throw at us. Overcoming low self esteem in the face of difficulty can feel like it’s too much, particularly if your self esteem wasn’t that great to begin with.

It doesn’t help when you get a bad day. If you keep getting bad hair days, it can feel like a pattern has set in. Even if you pull yourself back from the precipice, another setback can occur and it can seem like you’re back on a treadmill to nowhere. These occasions set you back and your confidence takes a drop. Then you start to beat yourself up and your self esteem falls. It’s a vicious circle.

Let’s say you’re a job seeker and you’ve been putting a lot of energy into job hunting, with not a lot of success. A bad day could be a string of rejections coming all at once, and calls and approaches you’ve been making seemingly getting nowhere. Then your health starts playing you up and you’re struggling to get going and make things happen. And it’s holiday season and those fortunate enough to be in work are taking their summer holidays, whilst you aren’t. So you feel even worse about yourself.

This is where in recession times developing your recovery and self belief skills are so important. The point of awareness is to get that you’re going back down on one of those slides, and to say “stop”, and stop yourself going back down into a pit. This takes practice, I know, but we have to start somewhere, and as good a place as any is to recognise this keeps happening, and to work to stop it keep repeating itself. What reinforces the decline is low self esteem, because we can so easily slip back into a negative pattern. It’s like it’s the ego saying, “I told you so, you’re no good”. This is where we need positive things to be saying to ourselves to challenge this negative cycle. None of it is true in any case. It’s more illusion, maya, a function of the ego, not who we really are. The mind is much bigger than this.

There’s a big point here in recognising how powerful the mind is, and how it can lead us to great positivity when we take charge, manage these mental patterns, and over and over again re-focus ourselves on to what uplifts us.

So, when you get another rejection or another set-back, this is a clue to immediately re-focus on your task and take action, and not to allow the sirens of doubt to start to get a hold over you. Working on the mind in this way is like treating the mind like a muscle that needs strengthening. Psychosynthesis says a lot about the will and how it needs to be built up. So too in these situations. When we’re in a positive, purposeful state, then we draw more positivity to us, and better things start to happen, as per the Law of Attraction. Stuck in negativity and we get nowhere and draw more of that to us.

I help people who need help with their careers. You can find out more here.

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Your real self esteem test can be the love you feel

Here is a perhaps slightly unorthodox self esteem test, but it very much relates to how we feel about ourselves. Recently I was giving a talk about Connecting to Inner Peace. The theme was about how to connect with that serenity and bliss that naturally dwells within us.

That proposition, that we have within us a natural centre of joy is itself radical for many people. After all life experience for so many of us is that of struggle and suffering. This is what the Buddha taught over two thousand years ago and it hasn’t changed. Surveys of happiness in a number of Western countries show that despite increased affluence over the last few decades, people aren’t any happier and in Germany and the UK they’ve actually fallen.

In fact you might test it out. When you read the words that there’s a centre of love, peace and joy within you, how do you feel?

If there’s an element of scepticism, then you might have a sense of the distance so many of us feel from this. When in my talk I suggest that at essence we are pure love, certain people look sceptical. It just doesn’t fit with their perceived reality.

It makes a good self esteem test. You don’t need some questionnaire, beloved of psychologists. Just tune in and ask yourself.

In fact learning to tune in and connect with yourself at more profound levels is part of the process of finding the love, peace and joy that I’m writing about. But you have to deal with the sceptical side too.

What happens is that early on in life we learn to defend ourselves against the disappointments of life, and in particular the experience of others not being there for us or rejecting us, and so we put up barriers to protect ourselves. Some just can’t bear the pain of more disappointment. So we distance ourselves. When we talk about love, we say the word in an awkward, embarrassed way. Some even say “lorve” or “luv”, changing the sound of the word, rather than just say “love”. It’s like it’s a cover-up.

Try it. Say “love” to yourself. Does it feel awkward or artificial?

Yet once you learn to connect with the love that naturally dwells within you, as you, then saying “love” is a reminder of that love, and you feel love. Then it feels celebratory, bountiful, expansive, and beautiful.

Then you don’t need another in order to feel love. It’s just there naturally inside you. Although having another to love is very useful as it is another “portal” as Eckhart Tolle calls it. It’s another way to connect. And others are part of us anyway, at essence.

This is another take on self esteem by the way, since we are loving ourselves, and we’re connecting with the love that dwells within us.

It’s a journey of course, but the rewards are immense, beyond words in fact.

Our seminar The Point of Awareness is especially focused on helping people develop their love of self

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Learning self confidence and self esteem

The tragedy for so many people in our society is the investment they have in how they think they are perceived, in their body image. Just recently this has been found to be extending to seniors, to the elderly, too, amongst whom there is an increase in eating disorders and other challenges associated with perceived body image.

It brings up all sorts of issues to do with self confidence and self esteem, with how we value and appreciate ourselves, and with our fears about how others might see us and what they might think of us. It erodes our self confidence and we limit what we think might be possible for us.

It’s almost an irony, the more as a society we have the less we many of us seem to think of ourselves.

Yet this can mean going where we don’t want to go, facing our demons within, where lives the source of our self-dislike. We think we’re so unworthy, unlikeable and unloveable. It’s a great irony too, since within us is a Source of great love. This is about shifting the inner dialogue and finding the treasures that lie within.

Of course you might hear or read the words, but it might mean nothing until you undertake the journey. And that journey can be a long one. Learning to love yourself, to find your own source of self esteem can mean taking a good look at what those negative feelings are about and discover that they are self-created and illusory, not who we really are. Thus we learn to shift our self belief, what we believe about ourselves, and find skill in being focused more on the love that lies within, on our strengths and capabilities and what we offer. And find too that what we think others think of us, isn’t what they think. One they are too busily focused on themselves, two they probably haven’t thought about it, or three they have actually admired you and thought you had things they didn’t have and wished they had. It’s so often the opposite of what we think!

The path of learning self esteem and finding the love that dwells within involves slaying old ghosts, illusions that we’ve had a life time and which don’t serve us. Very often we need to teach ourselves to love ourselves because we didn’t get that positive mirroring from our parents. So we have to learn it, and teach ourselves.

It’s a deliberate path. It means changing the belief we have about ourselves, and beliefs are just that, beliefs. We just hang on to them like mad. Perhaps now’s the time to let go?

I work with people to help them build up their self belief, self confidence and self esteem, so that they can achieve the success in life they deserve. To learn more, click here

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Thank you Whitney for your service to us

Like very many others I was very saddened to read that Whitney Houston died today, and that we’ve lost a major singing talent, albeit not as she once was. She died in her 49th year, which can be a turning point for many, and I’ve often noticed how people leave at that time. She was important for me not just for her excellent singing and all those songs I used play in my car on the long journeys I once did. She also helped unwittingly to contribute to the emergence of a new phase in my life.

For me she most represented a phase of re-awakening during which I used to play over and over again her rendering of The Greatest Love of All. One thing that had stood out for me from all the personal development work I was doing at the time was the need to learn to love myself. At the time that was a concept for which I heard the words but didn’t get it. How did you love yourself and what was that like? Like many others, I had grown up with a very negative view of myself, which I tried hard to conceal from the world, and had finally confronted and embarked on a journey to know the real me. Part of that involved loving the self I was discovering.

Of course Whitney wasn’t the only contribution to that process, but I recall playing the track over and over and noticing how I reacted inside when I heard the words “I found the greatest love of all inside of me…Learning to love yourself, it  is the greatest love of all“. And the song ends with her singing that if you find yourself in a lonely place, “find your strength in love.” I can’t repeat often enough how important I believe those words are.

One might think that those sentiments don’t seem to accord with her own life, but, hey, we’re human and we screw up. Sometimes our shadow jumps out to bite us. It’s to be compassionate and also to see beyond whatever challenges a person might be going through to what they teach us, and for me this teaching of her’s stands out.

Whatever we need to learn, we will find a way to hear it, and it may come from a song, and then it might come from some words in a book, and then some chance words you overhear as you pass by some others, and then the headlines on the news, and some inner voice speaking to you. It’ll be coming to us when we’re ready for it. The point is to be open to listen and to receive the wisdoms so freely given and to notice the resonance with our own process.

Whitney played her part in that and I thank her for that, and for her service to so very many people. God bless her.

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It’s hard to like yourself when you don’t like your body

Imagine you were an alien and you were being given a guided tour of shops to get an idea of what interests Earth beings. Suppose you were taken round Boots, the UK drugstore chain. What would that tell you about people’s preoccupations? Probably an awful lot about our preoccupations with our bodies and our appearance.

Many might be used to seeing news articles relating to women’s concerns in this area. Last week there was something on men too. Apparently 35% of 40-year old men surveyed would trade a year of their life to achieve their ideal body weight or shape. 80% engaged regularly in conversation about their bodies. The biggest matters of concern were muscles and “beer bellies”.

People seemed to be surprised about this. Yet, as a male, I was always very aware of the importance males attached to their body shape and how much they compared themselves with each other, but then I would, wouldn’t I, being “thin”, or as my wife reminds me, “slim”? “Body building” has been around for years. However there is a danger in generalising from one’s own experience. Concern about obeisity in men is a more recent thing, though. What the survey reveals is the level of unhappiness about body shape in men too, with the suggestion that an “obsession” with appearance is growing.

It’s worth noting just how much people worry about how they look, how they compare with others, what others think of them, how they match up to perceived stereotypes of appearance, how they can achieve what they regard as the ideal, perfect person, and how much we don’t value difference and don’t value ourselves. Instead the underlying drivers are thoughts like “I’m not good enough, not attractive enough, not strong and powerful enough; people don’t respect, like, or appreciate me,” and so on. Negative self-beliefs at work again. And they are very powerful beliefs. Linked with that is the ego tendency to compare ourselves with others, usually negatively in this case. The ego is engaged here, because this is about “who I think I am”.

The impact on one’s life of such preoccupations are huge, reinforcing negative self-images and that filter out into other ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.

Somewhere, deep inside, there’s another part of us that isn”t like that and doesn’t believe it, as it isn’t who we are. It needs a voice, for example to start challenging these negative self perceptions and asserting a more loving and respecting view of oneself.