Friday, April 30, 2010

Women and Self Esteem

Women and Self Esteem
By Maggie Vlazny, MSW, LCSW

What do you like about yourself? Are you proud of yourself? If these questions make you feel uncomfortable, or you cannot answer them, chances are that you have a problem with self esteem. Why is that? Why do so many of us basically dislike ourselves? Why are we embarrassed to "esteem" ourselves?

Before answering this question, we must first define self-esteem. Self esteem comes from the inside out. It means that a woman is not dependent upon anyone else to make her feel good about herself, because she already knows she's fine just the way she is. She is confident and aware of her strengths and abilities. She wants to share them with others.

This does not mean she is conceited. She is also aware of areas needing work and growth. But that's OK, because she knows she's not perfect, and she doesn't have to be. No one is. She understands that we all have our strengths and weaknesses.

Self-esteem is a core identity issue, essential to personal validation and our ability to experience joy. Once achieved, it comes from the inside out. But it is assaulted or stunted from the outside in. A woman with low self-esteem does not feel good about herself because she has absorbed negative messages about women from the culture and/or relationships.

The reign of youth, beauty and thinness in our society dooms every woman to eventual failure. Womens magazines, starting with the teenage market, program them to focus all their efforts on their appearance. Many girls learn, by age 12, to drop formerly enjoyable activities in favor of the beauty treadmill leading to nowhere. They become fanatical about diets. They munch, like rabbits, on leaves without salad dressing, jog in ice storms, and swear they love it! Ads abound for cosmetic surgery, enticing us to "repair" our aging bodies, as if the natural process of aging were an accident or a disease. Yet with all this effort, they still never feel like they are good enough.

How can they? Magazine models are airbrushed to perfection, and anorexic. "Beautiful" movie stars are whipped into perfect shape by personal trainers, and use surgery to create an unnatural cultural ideal. But youth cannot last. It is not meant to. If women buy into this image of beauty, then the best an older woman can strive for is looking "good for her age" or worse yet, "well preserved". Mummies are well preserved. Mummies are also dead.

Abusive experiences join with cultural messages to assault female self esteem. Abuse is pervasive and cuts across all socioeconomic lines. It invariably sends the message that the victim is worthless. Many, many women have told me that verbal abuse has hurt them far more than any physical act. As one woman put it, "his words scarred my soul". Women whose abuse started as children have the most fragile sense of identity and self worth.

Poor self esteem often results in depression and anxiety. Physical health suffers as well. Many times, women with this problem don't go for regular checkups, exercise, or take personal days because they really don't think they're worth the time.

Relationships are impacted as well. Their needs are not met by their partner because they feel like they don't deserve to have them met, or are uncomfortable asking. Their relationships with children can suffer if they are unable to discipline effectively, set limits, or demand the respect they deserve. Worse yet, low self-esteem passes from mother to daughter.The mother is modeling what a woman is. She is also modeling, for her sons, what a wife is.

In the workplace, women with low self-esteem tend to be self-deprecating, to minimize their accomplishments, or let others take credit for their work. They never move up. Finally, with friends, they are unable to say no. They end up doing favors they don't want to do, or have any time for. They end up going where they don't want to go, with people they don't want to go with! A woman with low self-esteem has no control over her life. But that can change. These women can get help and emotional healing.

It is critical to remember that no one deserves to be abused. If something bad has happened to you, it does not mean there is something wrong with you. The responsibility for the abuse lies with the person who chooses to hurt you. If you are presently being abused, you must put yours and your children safety first. If you think you are in danger, you can call your state domestic violence hotline number. NJ STATEWIDE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE 1-800-572-7233.

You can choose your own identity. You can discard the popular cultural image and replace it with something real. As I read someplace once, "We are bound by our fate only as long as we accept the values that determine it."

Nobody is perfect, but everyone is worthwhile. Believe in yourself.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Relationship

How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Relationship

Several years ago Pat Love Ed.D. and Sunny Shulkin Ph.D., two Imago trainers and therapists, published a book titled How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Relationship. Below is part of their list of some behaviors they identify which can, indeed, ruin a relationship:

• Control everything and everyone
• Never take the blame yourself; instead, make your partner wrong
• Make it a habit to spend more money than you have
• Win every fight, even the ones you couldn’t care less about
• Keep score
• Use threat often
• Find your partner’s weak spot and use it against him/her
• When your partner tries to please you, find fault with their efforts
• Hold fast to the belief: “If you loved me you would know what I want”
• Demand your partner remain faithful but refuse to meet his or her sexual needs
• Use silence as a weapon
• Pretend that you don’t hear
• When your partner tries to apologize, bring up more complaints
• Refuse to give information
• When you realize you haven’t given your partner some important info, insist that you did
• Claim to be the only one interested in the relationship
• Never ask for help
• Confide only in friends
• Take it personally when your partner wants time alone
• Discount your partner’s physical complaints
• Give advice where it isn’t welcome
• Never pick up after yourself
• Refuse to seek help for your depression
• Refuse to talk
• Focus on changing your partner
• Focus all your needs on sex
• Take all problems as further proof that the relationship will not work
• Put your friends before your partner
• Keep romantic gestures to a minimum
• Focus on your partner’s faults and deny your own
• Let days go by without a kind word or loving gesture
• Practice verbal abuse
• Do not listen to your partner’s ideas or suggestions
• Ask your partner to share feelings and when s/he does, EXPLODE
• Start conversations when your partner is busy, or better yet, exhausted
• Let disagreements fester
• Say what you think your partner wants to hear, then do as you please

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Two Sides of a Prison Wall

A young Japanese man named Shui was riding on a crowded train when a belligerent drunk made his way through the train car and began to rough up passengers. Shui had studied martial arts for many years, yet never before had he been forced into a public confrontation. Shui felt his blood begin to boil, and realized the ruffian needed to be stopped before he hurt someone badly.

Shui stood up, blocked the fellow’s path, and the two exchanged angry words. As the men were about to square off, Shui felt a hand on his arm. He looked down and saw a frail old man. “Let me handle this,” the elder insisted.

Shui watched in amazement as the old man invited the heavy to have a seat next to him. Strangely, he acquiesced. The elder began to engage the fellow, asking him questions about his life and looking him in the eye with kindness and compassion. After a while the thug confessed that his wife had just died and he was in great pain; he had gone out and gotten drunk to numb his agony. The old man placed a comforting hand on the fellow’s shoulder, and he began to weep. Before Shui’s eyes the intruder was transformed from a villain into an innocent child.

When the train arrived at the next station, the tough guy thanked the old man and exited the car. Shui, stunned, sat down next to the old man and asked him, “Why did you stop me?”

“You were about to meet that man’s violence with your own,” answered the old man. “In true martial arts, if you hurt your opponent in any way, you cannot call your act a victory.”

We have all encountered people whom we feel we must protect ourselves from. Yet there is a way to keep ourselves safe without hurting others. It is the strongest way to protect our peace. Although we have been taught that we must wield pain as a weapon to keep others at a distance, it is not so. We gain all together or not at all. To wish ill upon anyone is to hurt ourself.

I used to visit a prisoner named Ron. Years earlier, in college, Ron had a girlfriend named Jen. One night the couple had an argument, and in a fit of rage, Ron beat her up. Tragically, she died. Ron was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to many years in prison.

I met Ron when he was up for parole after nine years of incarceration. In contrast to his violent act, I found him to be a gentle soul. He was contrite about his crime and he had used his time in prison to advance his spiritual growth. Ron studied A Course in Miracles, he was active in the prison church, he was liked by the other prisoners and staff, and he had worked his way up to a responsible position managing the prison laundry. When I visited Ron, I sensed no cruelty in him and he certainly did not seem like a dangerous criminal to me.

Ron told me that he had been denied parole repeatedly because Jen’s parents had mounted a citywide campaign to keep him in jail. Each year when Ron was eligible to be released, Jen’s parents took out newspaper ads, exerted their political influence, and orchestrated a concerted community effort to “keep this killer off the streets.” Yet, looking at this man, I did not see a killer at all. I saw a basically good man who had made a heartbreaking mistake.

“So how are you dealing with Jen’s parents?” I asked Ron.

“I send them love and prayer,” he answered. “I understand that they are very angry and they must be in great pain. If I could go back and undo my act, I surely would. More than anything, I wish I could bring Jen back. But I can’t. So I am just deepening my relationship with God right where I am and trying to be a blessing to the world.”

As I left my meeting with Ron that day, I wondered who was really in prison. Ron was locked up physically, but his soul was soaring. Meanwhile, Jen’s parents were quite wealthy and enjoyed unlimited physical freedom, yet they were consumed by anger and vengeance. It seemed to me that their wrathful thoughts were creating walls more formidable than those encasing Ron.

Because we are spiritual beings at our essence, what we do with our spirit influences us more profoundly than what we do with our body. Heaven and hell are not places we go or conditions the outer world imposes on us; they are experiences we create with our thoughts and beliefs. A Course in Miracles tells us, “I am affected only by my thoughts.” Where our mind goes, there we are. The desire to hurt brings us instant pain, while the desire to heal brings us instant freedom.

If you are angry with anyone, or involved in a conflict, keep reaching for a solution that leaves everyone whole. If you feel you need to hurt someone or take something away from them to make things even, you do violence mostly to yourself. Instead of seeing them as a villain, regard them as wounded or calling for love. No one does anything mean or foolish unless they are in great pain. To try to inflict more pain only exacerbates their sense of disconnection. As you connect with your own sense of peace, you invite them to claim theirs. Only then can you say you have won.

by Alan Cohen

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Play the Mistake by Alan Cohen

Play the Mistake

by Alan Cohen

Just before Christmas last year, Rob Anderson went into a convenience store to purchase three $1 Powerball lottery tickets as stocking stuffers. The clerk misunderstood Anderson’s request and erroneously printed one $3 ticket. When Anderson called the mistake to the clerk’s attention, the clerk offered to nullify the ticket. Anderson decided to just go with the current of events, he accepted the ticket, and purchased the three stocking stuffers in addition. Rob went home and tossed the mistaken ticket on his nightstand.

The day after Christmas the winning numbers were announced and Anderson figured he would check the mistaken ticket just in case. That was when he realized the mistake was no mistake. He had just won $128 million, the largest Powerball jackpot ever paid in the Kentucky lottery.

Sometimes what seems to be going wrong is really going right. From a human perspective it may appear that things are working against you, when they are really working for you. That’s why it’s important to be vigilant for what errors might lead to.

When my friend Stephanie visits her parents every year at Thanksgiving, one of the highlights of the family’s traditional meal is “Mistake Salad.” “Many years ago mom was preparing a salad using a cookbook,” Stephanie explained to me. “When mom finished, she realized that she had accidentally merged the recipes for two different salads ― one portion of the ingredients for a salad described on the left open page of the cookbook, and another portion from a different salad described on the right open page. The salad turned out better than any other salad we had had, so now she replicates it every year as the famous ‘Mistake Salad.’”

Speaking of salads, have you ever heard how the famous Caesar Salad began? Cesar Cardini was the working in a small restaurant near a tiny airport near Tijuana, Mexico. One night during a rush of customers, the kitchen ran out of salad ingredients. When the next salad order came in, Cardini threw together whatever scant ingredients he had on hand. Behold the birth of one of the world’s most popular salads! (Originally it was called “The Aviator.”)

Robert Louis Stevenson noted, “Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well.” Yet what is a poor hand, but a good hand in the making? What is a minus, but half of a plus waiting for a stroke of vertical awareness? And what is an error, but something to parlay to create something far more valuable than what would have come had the error not occurred? As Ralph Waldo Emerson noted, “A weed is a plant whose virtues have not been discovered.”
All of life is interpretation. It is not the events that occur that make or break a life, but your interpretation of them. You can make anything out of anything, so why not make it what you would choose?

Years ago I was looking for a new location for my office. I found a site that was suitable but not great. In expedience I decided to rent it, and I asked the realtor to get me a contract. The realtor kept delaying and delaying, unto just a few days before I had to move. When I asked him about the contract he confessed that the owner did not want to rent to me because he had seen one of my books and he did not agree with my philosophy. I grew angry and complained about discrimination. Yet when I consulted my inner guidance, it advised me to simply let it be.

That day as I was driving home I decided to take an alternate scenic route. Along the way I noticed a storefront for rent. When I inquired, I found the owner to be a lovely woman who had been using the space for tai chi classes. We liked each other immediately and I rented the space. The facility was in a beautiful area, close to my home, with more space and far less rent than the space from which I had been turned away. Ultimately I blessed the original landlord for denying me. He was the vehicle by which I received something greater.

Life is trying to love you, and apparent mistakes may ultimately serve you. It is said that “disappointments are the hooks upon which God hangs his victories.” Nothing ever gets so bad that it cannot get good, and often the good that comes after the bad is greater than the good that came before it.

The next time you encounter a mistake, Rob Anderson would be a good guy to remember. As he deposits his annual checks for millions of dollars, he would probably suggest that we, too, do not resist errors, but let them work in our favor.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Great Harvest

The Great Harvest

As a farmer lay dying, his four sons sat by his bedside awaiting his final words. “There is a vast treasure buried in the family’s field,” he whispered.

“Where is it, father?” the sons pleaded. But it was too late. Their father was gone.

Soon after his passing, the sons set to the field, trying to unearth the treasure. For many days the sons desperately worked pick and shovel, digging everywhere in search of their promised legacy. Eventually they turned over every inch of the field, but alas, no treasure was to be found. Finally, dejected and discouraged, they gave up their search and returned to their families and vocations.

The next year the farm yielded its greatest harvest ever.

This parable yields a lesson richer than the treasure the sons so fervently sought: The fortune their father hinted at was not a magical boon that would transform the sons’ lives in one glorious instant. The treasure was the untapped potential of the field, capable of yielding riches to the family if they worked with the materials and natural potential before them. The power of the treasure lay not at the end of the rainbow, but in the journey toward it.

I hear people talking about waiting for their big break; or for Oprah to hold up their book on television; or to win the lottery. Certainly these events would be wonderful if they occurred, but if you sit on your duff waiting for a record producer, Oprah, or a lottery number to save you, you may wait for a very long time and miss the wonder and gifts of the journey. Wisdom-guided action and integrity build success far more substantially than a magic pill.

The apparent goal of a journey is simply the carrot the universe dangles before you to call you to the adventure and learn the lessons the journey yields. Martin Buber declared, “All journeys have destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” If you think about most of the things you have striven for, you will realize that the lessons you learned in the process of striving were far more powerful and long-lasting than the material object at the end of the trail. While you sought for a soulmate, you may or may not have ended up with that person; but the self-knowledge you gained and the growth you experienced in the search ran far deeper than the form of the person you sought. Or perhaps you worked hard for a financial or career success. You may or may not have attained your goal, but what happened to you along the way made a far greater difference in your life than the specific goal itself. Then, when you obtained the car, house, or promotion, you were satisfied for a moment, but sooner or later you set your sights on the next achievement. Something inside you recognizes that the power of stretching to achieve something yields you more value than the something itself.

We are a quick-fix oriented culture. We want lots of stuff and we want it now. What we often leave out of the equation, however, is that we would prefer stuff that works. We want computer printers that last longer than a year, a job we can grow into a passionate career, and a soulmate we can love for a lifetime. Because we often sacrifice integrity for expedience, the art of quality engineering, true craftsmanship, and meaningful relationships is shrinking to the domain of a dedicated few. When I visited Japan, my friend Koichi told me that the oldest company in Japan ― and the world ― is 800 years old. The company is an architectural firm that specializes in building temples and pagodas. The company, Koichi explained, does not use nails in their construction. Instead, they make a series of tabs on the ends of wooden pieces and fit them together. Over eight centuries, when there have been earthquakes, this company’s structures, including five-story pagodas, have stood firm while buildings around them crumbled.

If you want a life that stands while others crumble, pay more attention to how you till the field than finding the buried treasure. The real treasure, you see, is buried within you. If you are going to mine anything, mine the gifts you already own. Don’t wait for a soulmate, talent scout, or Oprah to put you on the map. You are already on the map, but if you are holding it upside down, you won’t recognize and claim your true domain.

It’s a wonderful thing when people or events come along to change our life. But you must do your inner homework and own those changes by right of consciousness. Otherwise the boons that arrive will disappear as fast as they came. But if you have tilled your field with love, care, and integrity, the harvest will be bountiful, and you will have plenty for yourself and many others.

by Alan Cohen

Monday, April 5, 2010

Gratitude From The Secret Daily Teachings

From The Secret Daily Teachings

Remember, if you are criticizing, you are not being grateful. If you are blaming, you are not being grateful. If you are complaining, you are not being grateful. If you are feeling tension, you are not being grateful. If you are rushing, you are not being grateful. If you are in a bad mood, you are not being grateful.

Gratitude can transform your life. Are you allowing minor things to get in the way of your transformation and the life you deserve?

May the joy be with you,

Rhonda Byrne
The Secret... bringing joy to billions

A Secret Scrolls message from Rhonda Byrne
Creator of The Secret