Personality, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

Self-Confidence: Was she born with it? Or maybe, she just did the work!

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. When you are born a lotus flower, be a beautiful lotus flower, don’t try to be a magnolia flower. If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life. True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself.” ~ Nhat Hanh

Who remembers the 1992 Maybelline TV commercial “maybe she’s born with it”?   Didn’t you want to look and feel that confident?! I did and probably bought the eyeshadow too. Now, that’s good marketing! While I realize that wearing a certain eyeshadow won’t really make me more confident, I do know that self-confidence can be nurtured and developed. We’re not simply born with it. I’d say that’s good news if becoming more self-confident is something that you want. The bad news, like anything else worth having, it takes time and practice to nurture it.

Research has shown that we are born with our personalities, it’s our nature. Self-confidence on the other hand is something that is developed and nurtured. While some personality types might appear more confident, it likely has more to do with society’s perception of confidence. For example, an extrovert may come across as more confident at a party because they are more comfortable talking in a group. However, I think it’s safe to say that talking isn’t an indicator of confidence. In fact, sometimes over-talking could be a sign of insecurity. An introvert on the other hand could embody more self-confidence, yet not need or want to be the centre of attention or enjoy small talk.

Ideally, when we’re children our parents nurture our self-confidence in us by providing a psychologically and emotionally safe place for us to develop into our unique selves. But as we know, this isn’t always the case. Many parents lack self-awareness or confidence and, therefore are unable to effectively nurture self-confidence in their child. Nevertheless, no matter how we were or weren’t nurtured, it’s never too late to develop our self-confidence.

High self-confidence is important for overall success, happiness and fulfillment so fortunately it’s a skill that we can all develop. Self-confidence will give you the courage to try new things and to live the life you want to live. I’ve always been fascinated by those women (and men) who embody that je ne sais quoi and have been curious how they developed it. This interest is at the core of my work, both personally and professionally. And, I know I’m not alone because it’s something that I’ve heard from employees, co-workers, clients, family and friends. Many of us desire more self-confidence.

How do we develop and nurture self-confidence?

The most important thing that I have done to help improve my self-confidence has been learning and understanding how my brain is organized using the Striving Style Personality System. Knowing and understanding my unique talents, gifts and strengths provide me with a guide to what and how I do my best work. When we understand what motives us, we can direct our energy and focus, thus developing them into strengths, which ultimately develops and nurtures our self-confidence. When we spend too much time in an environment or doing certain activities or tasks that drain our energy, we become held back and our self-esteem erodes.  

Understanding your weaknesses and what triggers your self-protective system is equally important in developing and nurturing self-confidence. When we live or act out of our self-protective system, doing certain things can feel difficult and we can judge ourselves harshly for it. We wonder why some things are so difficult for us, yet appear easy for others. Life can be difficult when we’re constantly fighting against our nature, and doing so, we diminish our self-confidence.

9 Ways to Nurture Your Self-Confidence

  1. Get clear on who you are – the best way to be more confident is to know who you are. When you understand your personality and unique gifts, what you value, your likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, habits, beliefs, needs and desires you can stop living life for other people and start living for you. Go ahead and use your unique voice to contribute, create and express yourself. The more you live your life on your own terms the more confident you’ll become.
  2. Focus on your strengths – Know what you have to offer and do that more confidently. Play to your strengths, as the saying goes. Most people take their strengths for granted, mainly because they come easily to them so they assume it must be easy for everyone. Identify your unique talents and needs, then build them into strengths, and your self-confidence will improve. Your greatest room for growth is by developing your strengths.
  3. Understand your weaknesses – Learn how your unique brain is organized, understand your blind spots and areas that are challenging or more difficult for you. Identify if you are spending too much or all of your energy doing activities or in an environment that drains you. Are you doing these things based on societal expectations or because of others’ needs? It’s a faulty assumption that the greatest opportunity for growth is focusing on your weaknesses. Focusing on weakness ultimately erodes self-esteem, whereas putting your energy into developing your strengths nurtures self-confidence.
  4. Practice self-compassion – be a kinder “friend” to yourself and start saying positive things about yourself. Forgive yourself and stop punishing yourself when you make a mistake. Tell yourself that it’s ok to make mistakes because it’s how we learn. Self-confidence erodes when you’re continuously putting yourself down and are too hard on yourself. Negative self-talk has a major impact on how we feel about ourselves, so ask yourself, would you say those things to your best friend? We often tell ourselves awful things that no one else would say to us. Practice saying or writing positive affirmations about yourself. Treating yourself with more compassion and respect will build your confidence.
  5. Develop your skills and knowledge – If you aren’t feeling confident in a specific area of your life, then be open to learning. Increase your competence by taking courses, reading, training, or by working with a mentor, coach, or trainer in the area that want to improve. Knowledge is power so dive into learning about your specific interests. The more you learn, the more confident you’ll feel in that area of your life. While many things can be learned through courses, reading and research, to really develop confidence in a specific area, you’ll need to put that skill or knowledge into practice. We aren’t born all-knowing so, whether you are exploring personal development, want to change a behaviour or habit, or learn a new job, sport or activity, real change and confidence come from continuous and consistent practice.  
  6. Value your own opinion – Stop making other people’s opinions matter more than your own. Your opinion matters so if you want to develop self-confidence you need to value your own opinion. While seeking help, advice or opinions from professionals or trusted friends and family is healthy, ultimately it’s your opinion that matters the most. Constantly worrying about what others think will just make your confidence go down. While you can remove negative people and their negative opinions from your life, remember, there will always be someone else out there. Speak up and let your voice be heard. Stop telling yourself that your voice doesn’t matter. Value your own opinion of yourself, and make it the main opinion that determines how you feel about yourself and what you’re capable of.
  7. Be courageous and face your fears – Feeling fear is completely normal and we’re all going to feel scared from time to time. However, every time you face fear head-on and overcome it, your confidence grows. Confidence comes from taking risks, getting uncomfortable and ending up on the other side. More often than not, we discover that we’re more capable than we thought which makes us feel better and more confident about our abilities. Being courageous means doing it anyway in spite of our fears. Every time you take action you build your self-confidence up a little more.
  8. Use positive body language – Having good posture and opening up the chest increases confidence. It also allows your voice to be heard loud and clear. Practice “Power Posing” to boost your confidence. You’ll not only look more confident, but you’ll also actually feel more confident. In her Ted Talk, Amy Cuddy explains “Power Posing” and shares her scientifically proven techniques. Research has shown that just standing or sitting a certain way, even for a few minutes a day, can raise testosterone levels and lower your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and help you feel more confident.
  9. Take care of your body – While it’s true that confidence comes from the inside, we can’t ignore or underestimate the importance of taking care of our physical self. You know what they say, ‘when you look good, you feel good’. Grooming yourself such as getting a haircut or dressing nicely can boost your confidence. Find your unique style that fits your personality and lifestyle. Develop the daily habit of moving your body, eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep and drinking enough water and your energy and self-confidence will improve.

Self-confidence always starts with developing self-awareness and becoming aware of your unique personality, your strengths and weaknesses, and knowing what motivates you. It comes from understanding how you most like to live your life and what is most important to you. It comes from learning how and when to consciously shift to your predominant Striving Style when doing certain activities in your life. Learning how to do this is a critical step to optimizing your potential and developing high self-confidence, if that’s something you desire.

Now, it’s your turn.

What tools or techniques do you use to boost your self-confidence? Are you “playing to your strengths” in your life (work, relationships, extra-curricular activities, etc.)? Share in the comments below.

Photo by Pexels

Negative Habits of Mind, Perfectionism, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

A beautiful, messy, imperfect life!

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” ~ Alice Walker

The Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi suggests that there is beauty within the imperfections of life, of accepting your imperfections and making the most of life. This Buddhist teaching is all about transience and aging gracefully. While I love this sentiment and think it’s definitely worth aspiring for, I can’t help but wonder how we can embrace our beautifully messy imperfect lives when so many of us are plagued with the notion of perfectionism?

In her groundbreaking book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown shares how “authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable”. She suggests that there is “magic in the mess”. Just imagine how liberating this would be!

What is perfectionism and how do we let go of it? Firstly, perfectionism is not about “striving to be your best” or about about “healthy achievement or growth” or self-improvement. Brene’ defines perfectionism as “the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame”. It’s all about attempting to earn approval and acceptance from others. Healthy striving is self-focused (how can I improve?) while perfectionism is other-focused (what will they think?).

Ironically, as I’m researching and writing this post, I find myself spending way too much time attempting to present it “perfectly”. It’s easy to get caught in the perfectionist trap of black/white, all or nothing thinking, being highly self-critical of not getting it perfect, therefore tempted to do nothing at all. I want to be helpful, useful, add value, and have a lot to share but instead of trusting myself and my experience, I get stuck researching, trying to imagine what you need, what it should look like, and how it can best satisfy you. An infinity loop of “analysis paralysis” with all or nothing thinking, focusing on the flaws, and getting stuck in overwhelm where nothing is good enough.

Perfectionism is debilitating and can limit you from trying things. Sometimes when I’m doing or trying something new and I don’t think it’s good enough, I may just stop doing it. I never considered myself a perfectionist because I never thought of myself as “perfect”. Yet, what I’ve learned is that it’s the belief that anything short of perfect is unacceptable and feeling like I wasn’t doing “it” right (whatever “it” was) just isn’t good enough. It also explains my tendency to procrastinate on things that are important to me and that I know I’m capable of. Instead of getting started, analysis paralysis sets in so nothing happens. I didn’t realize how much perfectionism is at the cruxt of procrastination. Often labelled as lazy, what’s really going on inside is the belief that whatever I produce won’t be good enough or that people won’t like it. Underneath is the fear of not being seen as perfect.

It can also hold you back from doing or trying new things until your life is “perfect”. Maybe you tell yourself you’ll be happy and accepting of yourself and your life when you lose a little weight, when you get fit, when you find love, get a particular job, have a family, or obtain financial independence. Or maybe you hold certain expectations of about how those you love should be or should act, and what your relationships with them should look like.

Perfectionism and self-criticism can manifest in many areas of your life, such as in your work or school, and in your relationships. Maybe its a small persistent nagging voice in your head, or maybe its the voice of one of your parents, your partner, or organizational or religious leaders. Do you hold an image or idea of how your life should be and when this expectation is not met, do you have trouble accepting the reality that is your life?

Just imagine if you could give up on wishing things were different from how they actually are. Imagine if you could lessen your sense of striving to get somewhere, to change something, to be more, to have more. Imagine yourself going through your days with a greater sense of acceptance – the type of acceptance that allows a softening within you that reduces the drive of wanting, wishing, or striving.

How do we let go of our perfectionism?

  1. Recognize and acknowledge it. It’s important to simply label the feeling or behaviour as perfectionism, and recognize it for what it is.
  2. Adopt a growth mindset. Instead of seeing mistakes as failures, view them as a critical part of the learning process.
  3. Set more realistic goals. Write down your long term goals, then write down smaller, weekly achievable tasks.
  4. Enjoy the process. With healthy striving, it’s the trying that really matters. Give yourself a mantra such as “done is better than perfect”; “just trying things”; “my best is good enough”; “just do it”, etc.
  5. Decide what level of imperfection you can tolerate. What is good enough? Where is your best good enough? Give yourself and others permission to make mistakes and be human.
  6. Explore your unique strengths and predominant needs. Become more aware of your unique abilities and talents, and seek out situations or opportunities where you can use or apply them.
  7. Practice vulnerability and self-disclosure in safe spaces and with strong relationships. Share your fears, your doubts, and your successes that create your story.

And seriously, who really likes being around those “perfect people” anyway! I don’t know about you, but it’s those “imperfect people” that I think are the most fun or interesting and that I enjoy the most. So why is it that we get this idea in our brains that we need to be “perfect”? Do we think they’ll love us more? Isn’t there something wonderfully bold and liberating in saying yes to our beautiful, imperfect messy lives.

Now, it’s your turn.

Are you plagued with perfectionism? What is your perfectionism stopping you from doing? What tools or strategies do you use to move past perfectionism? Share in the comments.

Photo by Pexels

Dreams, Goals, Personality, Self Actualized System, Self Protective System, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

 “Give yourself permission to live a big life. Step into who you are meant to be. Stop playing small. You’re meant for greater things.”  – unknown

Once upon a time, there was a twenty-something year old woman. She was passionate, charismatic, and fun; she was independent, opinionated, and driven; she was hardworking and ambitious. She was excited and hopeful about all of the possibilities her future held and went after her goals, one by one. Others were drawn to her energy and passion, and as she worked hard to achieve her goals, inspiring others along the way. Without a doubt, she could be too much for some people, but she didn’t worry about them – they weren’t her people.  In fact, she enjoyed being a contrary force and an independent thinker. She had a clear vision for her life, her career, her relationships, and went after it. 

At the same time though, she privately battled against debilitating insecurities and automatic negative thoughts and beliefs about herself – she wasn’t “good enough”; “not worthy”; and “who did she think she was anyway” to want success or the life she desired. As she got “bigger”, her deep-rooted fears and beliefs became stronger, pulling her down to keep her in her “place”. Fortunately for her, her clear vision of her life and ambitious nature were strong enough to propel her forward despite those negative beliefs. She especially found her stride in her work and her career flourished.  

Then, over time, she began the habit of shrinking and becoming less of who she was meant to be. Those powerful automatic negative habits of mind provided the ideal rationale and justification for her to begin not partaking in her life path. She compromised her dreams and plans to avoid confrontation so others would feel more comfortable. She put her gifts, innate needs, and desires behind the needs of others, not wanting to upset others or deal with the push back. She became a shadow of her true self.

This isn’t a unique story, especially for women. Women have been socially-conditioned to put the needs and desires of others ahead of their own. Once in a relationship, or when children come along, many women put their dreams, desires, and goals on the backburner, sacrificing their innate needs and desires in the “best interests” of the family, conforming (or contorting) into ideals of being the sacrificial wife and mother.

Such was the case with this woman. Not nurturing ourselves or living authentically can trigger our self-protection system, erode our self-esteem, and cause feelings of unhappiness and psychological distress. If you are someone who has felt like you’ve shrunk yourself to live life for the betterment of others, for the family, then you know how uncomfortable and confining it can be to live such a life. When we aren’t living as the best version of ourselves or living to our full potential, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and our loved ones.

So what do we do when we find ourselves in this situation?  How do we go about trying to figure out who we are and what we want?

Here are the five steps in the SSPS* to activate yourself:

  1. Self-awareness.  Learn about your personality, your strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. It helps to recognize when you are stressed and how your behaviour changes during such times.
  2. Current state analysis. Reflect on your current state and where your needs are being met, and where they aren’t being met.
  3. Imagine the life you what.  Envision, or re-envision, your future state, your dreams and possibilities. Define what it looks and feels like.
  4. Identify your automatic negative habits of mind. Uncover your dysfunctional patterns of behaviour, and; your fears and underlying beliefs and assumptions.
  5. Create a strategy and plan.  Identify actions and experiences of how you will move from your current state to your desired future state.

We’re all worthy of the amazing journey of finding our purpose, discovering our passions and, living our most fulfilling life. If you, like this woman, would like to start your journey back to finding yourself again and living more authentically, I’d love to help you. Start by completing the SSPS assessment by contacting me.

Now, it’s your turn.

Do you remember your twenty-something dreams? Have you shrunk yourself for “the betterment of others”? Are you currently living to your fullest potential? Share in the comments.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Boundaries, Reacting vs Responding, Self Esteem, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

How to set & honor your boundaries

“I allow myself to set healthy boundaries. To say no to what does not align with my values, to say yes to what does. Boundaries assist me to remain healthy, honest and living a life that is true to me.” ~ Lee Horbachewski

In my previous blog post I discussed how healthy boundaries are essential to our overall happiness and well-being. They’re also key to the well-being of those close to us. While we may all agree they’re important, the difficulty is actually establishing and holding others and ourselves accountable to them.

What is a personal boundary?

Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits.* Boundaries help us feel comfortable and to develop confidence and positive self-esteem.

Why we need boundaries

We need to set boundaries because the way we treat ourselves sets the standards for others around us. If we don’t put the effort into getting clear about what we really want and don’t want, then we can’t expect others to know how to treat us. And if we don’t define them, then someone else will do it for us. Without awareness or consideration of our boundaries, they can be crossed, forgotten, overlooked, or rejected. This, in turn, can make us feel invalidated, confused, hurt, or all of the above. And if this happens long enough, these moments can alter our reality and affect the relationship we not only have with ourselves but with others as well.

Thankfully, with time, you can develop the boundaries that are considered non-negotiables to create a healthy and happy life. According to Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear, you want to set boundaries to create a sense of internal and external security. “Boundaries allow us to be clear on our own needs and preferences, and this helps us maintain clear limits with others,” Manly said. “While some boundaries may be rather flexible in nature, our non-negotiable boundaries are absolutely essential to our sense of being honored and respected.”

Boundaries can be defined for every area of your life. When you have them, you’ll no longer wonder what to say when your friends ask you to go to a place you don’t like, or when your colleagues guilt you into joining another project team that you don’t have the time or energy for. You’ll no longer feel the urge to react to the comments on your life choices or opinions by your well-meaning friend, partner or family member. With clearly defined boundaries you will know what to say without being reactive or impulsive (previous post). How many times have you felt like saying no to a social engagement or a work assignment but instead you heard yourself agreeing because you didn’t know how to get out of it. We are prone to over-committing because we either feel uncomfortable saying no or we’re afraid that we’ll come across as rude or because we don’t want to upset other people. That’s why having healthy boundaries can really help you navigate life situations without feeling this way every single time.

3 Steps for Establishing and Honoring your Boundaries

Step 1:  Identify your boundaries

Reflect on the areas in your life where you need to create boundaries the most. Then identify what you want these boundaries to help you with. For example, navigating your work environment better, improving relationships with friends, or feeling more valued at home with your spouse or children. It can be anything really and there are no limits so list as many as you like. You can meditate on this and then write down everything that comes up for you. Once you’ve identified these areas and situations you can move to the next step in the process.

Here are a couple of questions to help you get started:

  • When and where expressing your needs and desires feels most challenging?
  • In which situations do you find it difficult to be fully yourself?
  • When do you hide your voice or opinion the most?
  • When are you putting your needs last?
  • What makes you put other peoples needs first?

Step 2:  Establish your response

Next, write down a sentence or two for each one of your chosen areas. These sentences will be the basis of your boundaries. Now, come up with a response for each of them.

Here are examples for a few areas in your life:

Your friend: Your friend wants you to go out on a Saturday night but you feel really tired but you don’t want to hurt her feelings and say no, so what do you do? You can say something like, I would like to spend some time with you but I’m not feeling well right now and I don’t want to ruin your evening so I’d rather spend it here and take care of myself. I really hope you understand. Keep your language simple expressing gently but firmly your needs and desires, while showing empathy, understanding, and compassion for your friends needs.

Your spouse: You and your spouse are having a disagreement and the conversation escalates to the point where your spouse becomes condescending and critical of you. This is making you very uncomfortable. Be very strict with your spouse and tell them that, “If you criticize me any further, I’m will not discuss this with you.”

Your work: Your boss asks you to join another team project but you don’t have the time or energy. You are very committed to your job and you don’t want to disappoint your boss by saying no, so what do you do? You can say something like, I really appreciate you thinking about me for this project but I already have a full plate with my current work load and won’t have the time to take on more and do a good job. I really hope you understand. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to negotiate your current workload and take on the new project.

When you set your boundaries you don’t need to explain too much or get into detail of why you are choosing to do something. You want to show that you’re confident in your decisions and that your needs are valid. So make sure you don’t get into saying too much, backtracking or changing your mind. If you have an instinct to start with “I’m sorry, but…” it’s important to get out of this habit because you don’t need to apologize for feeling the way you feel, or for the choices you make. This is especially common for women as we’ve been socialized to put others needs first.

Step 3: Honour your boundaries

Once you’ve identified your areas, and set your boundaries, you’re ready to go. You need to be very consistent and firm with them. This, by far, is the most difficult step because it requires a lot of courage, pushing past fears and developing your self worth.

State the consequences you will enact to create safety for yourself. Pay attention to people’s reactions. If your boundaries make someone mad, then that person is abusing you. Be aware that the urge to slip back into old habits will be strong at first, so you need to show that you are absolutely serious about your boundaries and you’re willing to honor them no matter what. The tough part is when the people in your life don’t want you to change. They will resist and fight it because they simply aren’t used to the new you and your boundaries. They will test you and trigger you and it will be difficult at first but it will pass. As long as you are honoring your boundaries they will eventually get the message and let it go. Until then, stay firm. People will start respecting your boundaries when you really show them that your new boundaries aren’t going anywhere. Be patient with your self, and the people around you. 

It’s important to be aware that you will most likely feel guilty when you exercise your boundaries, and it may take some time to fully release this feeling. This is especially true if you’re used to putting yourself last. This guilt will likely show up in the third step when you are honoring them. The more we remind ourselves that there is nothing wrong or bad about valuing our self-worth and taking care of our overall health and well-being, we will feel less and less guilty. When we define and honor our personal boundaries we show up as authentic and confident, which ultimately improves the lives of all those people around us.

I hope this helps you set your own healthy boundaries, feel more confident, and makes your life easier and more enjoyable.

And if you’re needing a bit of a confidence boost when honoring your boundaries, change your body language by doing a power pose, as described by Amy Cuddy in this Ted Talk video.

In this Ted Talk, Amy Cuddy, an American psychologist, explains how the “power pose” – standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident – can boost feelings of confidence, and might have an impact on our changes for success.

Photo source: Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

*Wikipedia

Boundaries, Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles, Victim mentality, Who are you meant to be?

We’re better with boundaries

“Daring to set boundaries is having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” ~ Brene’ Brown

I struggle with boundaries in certain areas of my life. And I’m quite certain that I’m not alone. I believe that a lack of boundaries is at the center of so many of the issues and relationship struggles I discuss with clients, co-workers, friends and family. Both personally and professionally, having healthy boundaries are essential to our happiness and well-being, and can help transform our lives.

Establishing healthy boundaries can be very difficult. It can feel extremely uncomfortable upsetting or disappointing others. Putting their needs before our own and ensuring their happiness seems like, on the surface anyway, the best way to keep the peace. But taking responsibility for everyone’s happiness while ignoring our own needs doesn’t actually make others happy. Nor does it make us happy. In fact, you’ll actually become very unhappy. In her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” Brene’ Brown describes that before she established healthy boundaries she was “sweeter on the outside” but “judgmental, resentful, and angry on the inside”. I can relate. Can you? Because really, can you truly be happy if you’re always trying to please others? I mean, I’m sure you don’t believe that people are responsible for your happiness, so why would you believe that you are responsible for their happiness? At the end of the day, no matter what we do or don’t do, I know we can’t really control the happiness of others.

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behaviour or a choice.” ~ Brene’ Brown

The way we treat ourselves sets the standard for others around us. If we don’t put the effort into clearly establishing what we want and don’t want, then how can we expect others to know what we want. They can’t read our minds so if we don’t define them, then someone else will. Having healthy boundaries in place will help you realize your self worth, and demonstrate that your needs and feelings are valid and important. You’re worthy of being seen and heard and of putting your needs first. You deserve to have a voice and an opinion. Of course, for some, it may be a bit more difficult to find your inner power and firmly define your boundaries, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. There’s no doubt that it’s hard but anyone can do it with time and practice. At first you’ll feel uncertain and a bit scared, and your boundaries will feel a bit shaky, but the more consistent you are, the easier it will feel. In the beginning you’ll likely feel bad or guilty if others aren’t happy, but you can’t please everyone.

Just like other people can’t read our minds, we can’t read theirs. It’s not our business to try and keep them happy or avoid disappointing them. In fact, in doing this, we also kind of take away their power from them by trying to avoid upsetting or disappointing them. We don’t need to filter ourselves for the sake of others. We’re allowed to feel what we feel and it’s not our place to manage other peoples emotions, even if it comes from a caring place. We may think we know what’s best for everyone but sometimes we need to take a step back and allow other people to decide how to feel for themselves. All we can really do is have our own boundaries in place, honor them, and express what we need and how we feel.

Having healthy boundaries can help change our lives. They can help you express your needs and desires without feeling pushy, rude or guilty, and they help you strengthen your relationship with yourself. When you get clearer about what you want, what you are here for, you’ll no longer feel the need to hide or filter yourself. The more self-aware you are (see previous post), and the better you understand your Striving Styles predominant need, fears and triggers, you be able to identify who you’re meant to be and know that you’re worthy of feeling good and honoring yourself. Your well-being doesn’t have to come last.

Signs you lack healthy boundaries

A lack of strong and clear boundaries can result in feeling worthless, weak, or not good enough. Here are some signs that you are lacking healthy boundaries in your life:

  1. you find it diffcult speaking up when you feel mistreated.
  2. you find it difficult making your own goals a priority.
  3. you do things when you don’t want to. You have a hard time saying no.
  4. you go out of your way to please others and seek their approval.
  5. you overcommit and give away too much of your time, making too many sacrifies at your own expense.
  6. you get guilted into doing things for others.
  7. you agree when you actually disagree.
  8. you feel guilty taking care of yourself, and taking time for yourself.
  9. you feel guilty when someone else feels bad, like you are responsible for other peoples thoughts, feelings, and actions. You feel guilty when others aren’t happy.
  10. you feel taken for granted by others.
  11. you give your time away for free.
  12. you do or give away things that you can’t afford.
  13. you feel like you have failed someone or guilty if you say no to them.
  14. you feel resentful and complain even though you agreed to the request or the expectation.
  15. you are what others want or need you to be, and not what YOU need to be.
  16. you are almost always comply with those in superior positions (boss, parent, etc.)
  17. you have toxic relationships or stay in unsatisfying relationships or situation.
  18. you let others describe your reality.
  19. you minimise your own feelings and needs.
  20. you do things out of obligation.
  21. you are consumed with what others think of you.
  22. you over-share details about your life.
  23. you often feel like a victim (refer to previous post)
  24. you attract people who try to control or dominate you.

If you identify with any of these then stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll be discussing strategies and tools you can use to define, develop and honor healthy boundaries in every area of your life. While initially it won’t be easy, having healthy boundaries can really help you navigate life situations without feeling guilty or bad every single time. By leaning on the understanding that ultimately everything you do is for the sake of yours and others well-being and that you are always doing your best, you will soon realize that you’re worthy of taking care of yourself and that there is nothing wrong or bad about it, and eventually you’ll feel less and less guilty.

Healthy boundaries* include:

  1. saying no to things you don’t want to do or don’t have the resources to do.
  2. leaving situations that are harmful to you.
  3. telling others how you want to be treated.
  4. being aware of your own feelings and allowing yourself to feel differently than others.
  5. not trying to change, fix, or rescue others from difficult situations or feelings.
  6. allowing others to make their own decisions.
  7. prioritizing self-care.
  8. sharing personal information gradually based on how well you know and trust someone.
  9. recognizing which problems are yours to solve and which problems belong to others.
  10. communicating your thoughts, feelings, and needs.
  11. having personal space and privacy.
  12. pursuing your own goals and interests.

in the following video clip, Brene’ Brown explains, in her typical humorous style, how to let go of the person we think we’re supposed to be and embrace who we are. And when we have the courage to set boundaries, we engage with our worthiness.

THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION: LIVING WITH COURAGE, COMPASSION AND CONNECTION | Excerpt | PBS
•14 Feb 2011 PBS

Book recommendation:

Now, it’s your turn.

What you would really want to do if you knew that it wouldn’t disappoint others? Which area(s) of your life are boundaries the most difficult to maintain? Which of the unhealthy sign(s) did you identify with? I recommend journaling or mediating on them. Of course, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo source: Susan Wheeler (view of Stanley Park from Ambleside Beach, West Vancouver, BC)

*Sharon Martin, LCSW

Personality, Self Actualized System, Self Protective System, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

How do you shine?

“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” ~ Paulo Coelho

Do you know who you are? What your unique gifts are? Each of us are born perfectly unique. We can see this unique beauty in babies and children who are happy and free within their own skin. Then, over time and as we grow up, social and cultural conditioning, the need to fit in, to get along, and to be liked by others, slowly erodes our uniqueness, and in many ways, encourages us to be who we think we should be rather than who we actually are. This experience of being removed from our true self can leave us unsure of ourselves and lacking in confidence, energy and motivation. It can also rob us of the peace that comes from being ourselves and being comfortable in our own skin.

Knowing who you are meant to be starts with knowing what you are born as. Too often people try to figure out what they are meant to do without having any idea about who they really are. This disconnect causes them to look outside of themselves for answers to questions that can only be answered from within. It also causes us to strive to be what others expect of us and to give up on ourselves and instead try to live up to an ideal, to be the person that we think we should be, rather than based on who we authentically are.

We’re are all driven by powerful, instinctual needs that we’ve had since birth – our predominant style or Striving Style (SSPS). These needs are the source of our motivation for our behaviour, social interaction, and influence how we behave and how we feel about ourselves. When our predominant need is met, we are poised for growth and development.

However, when our predominant needs are not being met, we will feel threatened, frightened or anxious, leading to self-protective or survival behaviours. Fear and anxiety override rational thought which will profoundly influence our behaviour, often without our awareness, thus undermining our success and effectiveness.

Have you ever got to the end of the day and felt like somehow your day was hijacked? Or maybe you’ve spent to much time reacting, caught up in some drama or just consumed with a sense of busyness. Do you ever feel uneasy, or have a quiet of rumbling deep inside that something isn’t right. This means you are living out of your self-protective systems. When I have a day (or week) like this I’ll reflect on the predominant needs of my striving style and make a plan on how I need to shift out of my self-protective system. If you’re unaware of your predominant needs you will be at the mercy of your unconscious impulses, emotions and negative habits of mind, leading to reactive, non-productive behaviour, increased emotionality, and an inability to focus on your goals.

The SSPS gets to the heart of the human experience and helps you identify what you need to feel secure and psychologically stable so you can grow and develop. As well, it provides you with insight into the consequences when you don’t get your predominant needs met. The SSPS doesn’t provide a laundry list of strengths and weaknesses but rather, it takes into account the complexity of your brain’s functioning and its impact on your personality.

Coming to understand yourself, recognizing and expressing your uniqueness and who you really are will make you feel more creative, confident, energized and inspired. Your personality, your unique history and story is like no one else’s. Living a life with authenticity, meaning and purpose is ultimately what a happy and fulfilled life looks like.

I love this beautiful (and fitting) song that I have currently playing on repeat. Enjoy!

Astral Plane by Valerie June

Now, it’s your turn.

Think about a time recently that you felt really happy and content, like in that moment you had everything you needed. Who was there? What were you doing? How did you feel when you were in this moment of happiness?

How about a time that you felt inspired motivated or purposeful. When you felt you were focused, in the zone. How did it feel to be inspired in this way?

What about a time when you felt moved by something more- a beautiful sunset, a night sky, the ocean an overwhelming experience of love or compassion.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels

Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles

Discovering our je ne sais quoi

” I can’t think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself” – Emma Stone

Inspired by a recent group of my workshop participants, as well as my upcoming trip to Paris, France with my teenage daughter, promoted me to read and reflect on the phrase “je ne sais quoi”, a phrase often used to describe French or Parisian women.  I read recently that we spend the first half of our life trying to fit in, while the second half we spend trying to stand out.  Inspiring, nurturing, and encouraging our children to have the confidence and independence to fully embrace their unique whole selves and live fully, especially during this first half of their lives, is my deepest desire for them.  I think the best way to do this is to do our best and model it for them.  I couldn’t agree more with the following quote:

“Taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your kids” – Lenny Lemons

Here’s what I found that best describes someone who embodies “je ne sais quoi”:

  • Nurtures her internal well-being as much as her external beauty.  Life isn’t about impressing others but enjoying herself.
  • Accentuates her strengths, focusing on her unique characteristics, both physically and personality.  Owning what she has, not fixing or changing herself.  She shows up as the best version of herself.
  • Keeps her beauty natural and authentic to her unique physical characteristics.
  • She finds pleasure in healthy, quality food, indulging in moderation.
  • She uses her clothing and physical appearance as a tool to establish and represent her state of being.
  • Brings passion to everything she does, from the mundane to the big things.
  • Stops trying so hard to impress others.  It’s about being you!
  • She is self-possessed, and builds her life around knowing what she loves, what turns her on, what’s she’s passionate about.  She builds her life on inner joy and personal radiance.  Finds answers within and shares that passion with the world.
  • She simplifies her life so she has more space to strive for passionate pursuits and stress-free living.
  • She savours the moment by slowing down.
  • While she visualizes and plans her life, and where she’s going, she can let go of control and enjoy her journey. She focuses on how to presently show up in the moment.
  • She does not take life too seriously, approaching her life with a playfulness and friskiness that delights everyone she encounters.
  • She continuously learns and grows.
  • She exudes confidence, intelligence, sophistication, and style that comes from the clarity of knowing who she is!

Understanding ourselves, our strengths, weaknesses, fears and underlying beliefs that get in our way to becoming our best self is fundamental in discovering our je ne sais quoi.  The “This is You” workshop and Striving Styles Personality System helps us to further dive into an understanding of our personality,  helps us to recognize our innate strengths, offers insight and understanding of ourselves and and how our unique brain works.  These are the skills needed to uncover and nurture our authentic self.  Contact me if you would like to discover your je ne sais quoi!