Tag: self-esteem

Be Useful – What Do You Do Best – What Are Your Gifts?

Be Useful – What Do You Do Best – What Are Your Gifts?

Be Useful
ARTIST: Bessie Pease Gutmann

I never felt like I knew how to be useful as a child. My skills were limited. The youngest of five, my siblings had little use for me and more often than not I was a burden not an aid. They were useful! They taught me things. My sister taught me how to fix my hair, my brother gave me rides in his Messerschmitt. My parents were useful. My mother cooked, cleaned, baked cakes for the sick and the elderly. My father, worked to put food on the table and when he was not working outside of the home he was working on the car, or the garden, or the house. My family members were all very busy people! I, on the other hand did not see my usefulness.

One day, my sister sat down at the piano and started playing O Holy Night while I stood by her side to turn the pages. Sing! she said. I loved the song so I began to sing. I worked very hard to get the notes just right. We had to practice a bit, but we got better and better. We laughed together and enjoyed what we had created. I realized, I felt useful! It was not a usefulness that was like baking cookies for the elderly or changing the oil in the car, but it filled my heart with joy and lifted my spirits. I was being useful to my sister.

I have been taking a series of Spiritual Direction classes with Caroline Myss via her CMED Institute over the past year. In her most recent class she talked about this idea of being useful and I began to think about how my perspective in this regard has impacted my life.

BE USEFUL – IT’S ESSENTIAL TO YOUR SELF-ESTEEM

Being useful is essential to our self-esteem. Mine suffered because I could not see my use. It was the underlying cause of my depression. I see that now. It made my heart-sick and my soul pine for something more.

In later years, working and motherhood gave me a sense of usefulness. Being a good mother mattered deeply to me. It gave me a sense of purpose in life. It made drudgery doable. And with work, one can always find something useful to do. When my job as a mother began to wind down, the restlessness reappeared. I felt a void. An emptiness. A longing for something more. I needed to be useful. Now, however, it would have to be something different.

One of the problems I faced with seeing myself as useful was that in spite of the fact that my parents both led very “useful” lives, they seemed to still carry a restlessness with them to their grave. Neither one felt as though they had done enough, had been useful enough. I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted not “to die with my music still in me”.

[tweetthis display_mode=”box”]”Don’t die with your music still inside of you.”Wayne Dyer #quote[/tweetthis]

It is important to be useful. It’s equally important to take a step back when deciding how to be useful and look at what comes naturally to us. What do we do best? What do we enjoy doing? Checking out customers in a retail store is useful. I can do that. I have done that. But, it rarely makes my heart sing. It makes my feet hurt. Standing on a ladder forty feet in the air painting someone’s house is useful. I have done that as well. Trust me, it didn’t make my heart sing for long. There was a sense of empowerment from defeating my fear and accomplishing a task, but been there, done that happened real fast.

My first job as a writer made my heart sing. I was hired to blog for a website for women over fifty – when the internet was barely up and running. The Universe had called me out of motherhood retirement, and I’ve never looked back. I still question my usefulness, particularly when my words fall flat. I know now, however, that it is necessary to re-focus my attention when that happens. When I feel useless or despondent, I know it’s because I need to do something that makes me feel useful and keep on doing so until my heart sings.

[tweetthis]What makes your heart sing?[/tweetthis]


 

MORE ARTICLES you might enjoy:

Beneath the Mask of Depression

Depression – Fighting the Battle

Life Under the Cloud

The Masks We Wear

A Post Went Viral – What It Says About Women Over Fifty

A Post Went Viral – What It Says About Women Over Fifty

A post went viralNo one was more surprised than I….

when I looked at my stats on the Aging Abundantly Facebook page a couple of weeks ago and saw that a post went viral.  I thought I was seeing things. What I was seeing was what going viral looks like in numbers! It made me giggle because I absolutely never advertise on Facebook and I bet if the powers that be happened to notice they’d be really bugged!

Historically I have gained on average 10 followers, give or take, a week since starting my page in 2010.  On February 2nd the page had 7,199 followers, all gathered like a rolling stone gathers moss. Today, a month later the number has nearly doubled.   One single post that I casually posted like every other post made that happen.

Reflecting on the nature of the post and the Aging Abundantly follower’s reactions to it, I began to reflect on what it meant. The post hit a nerve for a reason. It said something about the mindset and self-perception of women over fifty.

This is the post: Be sure to like it! 🙂 AND PLEASE COME BACK and let me know why you think the post went viral. 

WHAT IT REALLY MEANS THAT A POST WENT VIRAL

As of this moment, the post has reached 8,362,751 people. It has been shared 124,542 times. It has received 13 K Likes. I have read every single comment, and with maybe two or three exceptions the sentiment has been a variation of “what mirror, I avoid them!”, or “every day”, or “I hate mirrors”, or “How awful, I look just like my mother!”… or father…or great Aunt Betty. For some there is laughter, for many, many more there is sadness and disappointment, a feeling that they fear they are no longer of value because of the image there mirror reflects.

Mirrors appears in many ancient stories and tales. They symbolize a universal concept – an archetype. Think of the story of Snow White and the wicked witch who was obsessed with the magic mirror – “mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all”?  A mirror shows us something about ourselves that we are not paying attention to, or are not able to accept. A mirror, in this context, reflects to us our shadow selves.

This post went viral because women are experiencing great discomfort with the aging process, despite what the media is saying about us.  We do not like what is happening not only to our bodies or how we appear to the world.  No matter how much we try to make these feelings go away we just can’t seem to find a place of acceptance and love. We go about life either hating what we see in the mirror, not looking at all, or laughing it off hoping against hope that we will morph back to a younger age, the person we used to be.

I believe this is a symptom of both our victimization by a youth obsessed culture and our inability to see the truth about the gifts we now possess.  We continue to have distorted expectations, warped values that all translate into self-loathing and shame. Many of us have been talking about this for a decade or more, but it would seem that there is much work still to be done. I’d like to imagine that one day we could see the aging body as a beautiful symbol of a fully lived life – a body richly decorated with the beauty of life itself and the courage it has taken to survive. I would like to look into the eyes of an old woman and see strength and character, not fear and self-loathing.

Today I saw an article on Huffington Post – 11 Middle-Aged Women Strip Down to Reclaim Sexy On Their Own Terms.  Something about it really bothered me. I admire the women in the article who participated for trying to make sense of it all and for being willing to put themselves out there to do so. However, their unresolved issues around their sexuality caught my attention. The very context and approach of the article and photo shoot was ego-based. Nothing about it spoke to the deeper, more valuable beauty of women over fifty.  It’s as if we’re trying to mix apples and oranges. Why does sexy matter? Why do we talk about it endlessly? Why are we obsessed with sex at every age? Sex, like aging is a natural part of life. Beauty is an inside job at every age. Aging is an inside job as well. Physical beauty is an inside job most especially as we age. We keep talking about this, but keep being drawn back to the mirror provided by the culture.

I don’t think our obsession with mirrors and self-loathing has anything at all to do with our appearance. What it has to do with is what’s behind the eyes that are looking in the mirror – what we see when we look in the mirror tells us how we really feel about ourselves, our life, our value as human beings. It does not reflect the reality of who we are and it’s not about external appearances. I know there have been days I look in the mirror and I like what I see. There are days when I don’t. This can take place when in 24 hours of each other. Did I suddenly undergo an external transformation? I don’t think so. What’s changed is my outlook on myself and my life. It’s about my level of self-esteem. It’s whether I am feeling comfortable in my own skin from the inside out.

The fact that this post  went viral tells me that, ladies, we have work to do! There are masks to be removed, hurts to be healed, and a heavy dose of self-love to be swallowed.

 

Unraveling Ourselves

Unraveling Ourselves

“Unraveling external selves and coming home to our real identity is the true meaning of soul work.”

Sue Monk Kidd3c15e6af5a296dd861c2bd8ba93aa29e

There is so much to be done in the unraveling department. The good news is that once true unraveling begins, one starts to feel lighter and lighter. The heavy weight of pain and confusion begins to lift and the challenges one faces are laced with hope. Feeling one’s real and honest identity become interconnected with one’s soul is both energizing and life affirming.

If anyone had told me years ago that I would feel younger, happier and freer at sixty-three than I had ever felt at any other time in my life, I would have been convinced they were smoking something. I lived pretty much most of fifty something years under a black cloud, fighting, struggling, despairing…suffering inside in a way I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

I was dedicated and earnest in my pursuit of self-understanding from a very early age. I was drawn to the spiritual life, like a magnet. I understand the human need and desire for a connection with the divine, implicitly. What I didn’t understand was my pain in the world. I didn’t understand how the world and the divine spoke to one another. The divine was speaking, but no one was listening.

Repeatedly throughout my life, I moved toward God and then fell away. I moved toward spiritual teachers and an understanding of an inner life, but when I attempted to carry it into the world I felt frustrated and alone. I did not know how to put words to any of what I knew to be true in a way that would convey to others.

The symbolic language I found and used to describe such things no longer worked in my practical, modern surroundings. I desperately wanted to find a connection between the two. I did not want to leave the world behind and go to a mountain top, although at times I wish I had. It could not have been more painful to be alone with God than it was to be alone in the world.

Now all these years later I’m beginning to see more clearly what happened. A product of my times, I found nowhere to go with my spiritual yearnings. Even seminary was an environment that was decidedly pragmatic in its approach to spirituality. One believed in the fundamentals of the Christian faith, even questioned and discussed them with other believers, but when all was said and done it was understood that the ultimate goal was to bring our faith and belief to others in the context of the church setting. What about bringing it into the world at large? Why must we put it into a box only to be brought out on Sunday morning in a pre-programmed environment? I couldn’t buy into any of it.

To my way of thinking what was always wrong with the “church” was what is still wrong with organized religion. It’s religion in a box. It’s not about spiritual listening and learning and becoming. It’s not about looking for God in the everyday world of board meetings and while making peanut butter sandwiches for your kids. We paid lip service to that, but there really was no support structure for such a lifestyle.  Religious traditions are too small, too narrow, too limiting for what I believe God to be and the spiritual life to require.

When “religion” didn’t answer my questions or satisfy my yearnings I didn’t abandon the Divine that lived in my heart. I just stopped paying attention to her voice. She was still there, calling to me, needling me, tormenting me. I chose instead to turn my back on my soul and sought refuge instead in the psychological realm. Therapy. Medication. Pain. More therapy. More pain.More medication.

I learned much about the human psyche, but it did not help me grow in self-esteem or  value the gift of life, because at my core I remained disconnected from my essential myself, my soul self. I was ignoring that place from which all real self-esteem comes. If we are not listening to our deep, inner voice and hearing the messages and guidance of our soul, we will never find peace. We will never understand who we are or what we have to offer the world. We will never trust that we are valuable, or that we matter, no matter what. No therapist, no religion, no worldly structure  or construct can ever teach us that.

Righting the Ship

Righting the Ship

painting A Winning Yacht
“A Winning Yacht” by J.O. Davidson, engraved by W. Wellstood

It seems that it is time, well beyond time, for me to begin to gather my thoughts around all that has transpired in my life over the last decade. To offer what I have learned in case it comes in handy to you, dear reader, or someone you know. I don’t write here for my own aggrandizement. In fact, I often don’t write because I wonder what use another would find in my journey, and yet, I have learned so much from others. Perhaps my insecurity actually causes me to be stingy with my experience.

I’ve written much in the midst of my pain, but now that I’m in a clearing space I find my perspective is different, my view broader and broader by the day. I was listening to an audio by Andrew Harvey today and he talked about his “dark night of the soul”. He spoke of a specific experience that he considered to be THE dark night of the soul of his life, not just “any old dark night of the soul”. It made me wonder how one quantifies such a thing.

In many ways, I feel that my entire life was a desperate attempt to pull myself out of just such a place – I lived in the dark night way more often than not. And yet, my deepest despair, the closest I came to giving up and giving in came three years ago, when everything I had worked so hard to make happen in my life seemed to crash in on me…literally and figuratively. in spite of all of my efforts to do otherwise.

This time, however, I think I finally got the message that was trying to be sent to me. Or at least I am starting to get it.  It’s a multi-faceted, multi-dimension message that I will try to filter into some basic principles, truths and guidelines that might help you in your own journey toward a conscious life.

FIRST: The biggest and most useful step one can take to bring about change in one’s life is to seek one’s true, authentic inner voice. (I didn’t say it was going to be easy!) Finding our essential or core self takes some serious sorting through of all the voices and messages that exist and deciding what is what.  It’s not as obvious as one might think, or at least it wasn’t for me.

I listened to my feelings my entire life as if they were the gold standard for the truth.  I really thought I was listening to my true self. If I felt it, it must be real. Right? Wrong. Feelings are valuable, don’t get me wrong, but the psychology of my generation, elevated them to a height that was way beyond healthy. In reaction to the feeling deniers of our parents generation, it made sense, a necessary over-correction. The bad habit I had acquired from my training and reading wreaked havoc on my life. It wasn’t until I understood where feelings truly belonged in the overall scheme of things and began to put them in their proper place was I able to find some balance and some semblance of inner peace.

Just as harmful as being ruled by one’s feelings is mistaking one’s mind chatter for our true selves. More often than not, the mind chatter that directs our decisions and disrupts our self-confidence is chatter we acquired from our family of origin, the culture and the other significant people in our lives. Refusing to listen to this type of guidance takes us one step closer to finding our own true and authentic voice.

I deepened my connection to my essential self, my soul self, my real self through the practice of meditation and guided imagery meditation at the same time I was consciously sorting through the this-es and thats of my poor self-esteem using psychological and psycho-spiritual tools.  It’s a very fluid process, this strengthening of the core self and the quieting of the fear mongers in our psyche. It’s a push on this and pull on that until the ship begins to right. But it’s worth the effort.

BANISH THE DARKNESS
IN SEARCH OF MY EDGES
In Search of My Edges

In Search of My Edges

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I’m trying to find my edges. The perfect unfolding of a new beginning, a new drama that is directed only by me.  As daft an attempt as this might be, it quickens my spirit and draws me forward. The edges of me, the beginnings, the ends, the boundaries of my soul  lend shape and substance to an otherwise chaotic world.

I came with edges and boundaries. I gave them away, bit by bit, piece by piece, in order to live. I made a bargain. Let me live and I will pretend I don’t have yeses and nos, definition or substance, thoughts, ideas or places to be. Let me live. Just let me live, and I will pretend I am you.

The driving force to live trumps all else, at least for me. I didn’t realize when I made the deal what a dark morass of pain and emptiness could roll in behind such an agreement.  The suffocating despair of giving up one’s soul for an opportunity to breathe the air. I wonder now if I would make such an agreement again. Sadly, I think I would. There’s so much beauty in the world, to see, to touch, to feel, to taste…even in silence…even in utter darkness. There is light…an ember…warm, smoldering love…even in darkness.

I’m looking for my edges. So I can stand again and know the name that lives in me and I in it. I’m carving a path toward definition, toward understand, toward peace, where truth is me and I am it.  Truth knows my edges. My edges know the truth. It’s holding on that’s difficult. It’s not allowing porosity to perplex me.

I have known what it is like to feel the weight of myself, the certain, unencumbered definition of me, no questions, only answers. But, like the magnificent loblolly pine, I know that enough wind will bend and even break me in two, sheer off a branch, or topple me entirely.  My roots are shallow too, and I’m never certain that I can withstand a storm of a certain magnitude. Unlike the loblolly, I find it difficult to bear the scars and still stand tall and proud, as if I were invincible.

The fortitude that is required to find and sustain my edges has yet to be determined. I suppose we can’t ever know how much of a thing we will need until we need it.  I stand in awe of the complexity of human nature , the knotted, tangle of nerve endings that propel a man like Robin Williams to make the choice he did. Was it a dialogue not dissimilar from those that often play in the far reaches of my own mind? Or is it just as simple as, enough is enough. Perhaps one can be defeated by a pain that finds its source in the mind, or a sickness of the soul that defies diagnosis and treatment.

I wish he’d chosen to dig deeper,  to hang on, to look for hope, to create a happy ending. It’s a selfish wish, but it would make it easier for those of us who live on the edge of darkness to believe we can make it too, especially since we can’t imagine being as magnificent , or strong, or as fully human as he was to us. And yet, maybe he knew his edges better than I know my own. He chose his precise limits, his very own no, in the most potent of ways. Perhaps it was the boldest statement he ever made. The truest truth for him. An absolute line in the sand. This…is me. Maybe it was the very first time he ever said yes to Robin.

I want my yes to be different. I want to find my own happy ending and I want it to be more like what I imagined for him. Still I honor his freedom to make his choice. My fear is that he really did not have a choice and that he really was not free. It is the same fear I have for myself.

Yes-sand-line

How to Boost Your Self-Esteem (and Happiness!)

How to Boost Your Self-Esteem (and Happiness!)

It is possible to feel good about ourselves as we age, we just have to understand what self esteem really is and what steps to take to enhance it in ourselves (and others).

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the importance of self-esteem. And yet, the general understanding of the meaning of self-esteem in the public arena is slippery at best. The National Association of Self Esteem, (Yes! There is such an organization!), defines it as “The experience of being capable of meeting life’s challenges and being worthy of happiness.” If you are a person with a healthy level of self-esteem, you will deal with the problems you encounter in a productive fashion, believing that you are a good and decent person who is entitled to good things.

People often confuse egocentricity with self-esteem and assume the terms are one and  the same.    READ MORE