Do You Like Yourself?

I picked up Brené Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection mostly because of its subtitle: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.  In my Retirement Transition Journey, I am intentionally working on discovering who I truly am, versus continuing to behave as I believe I am expected to behave.  And to answer the question, “Who am I without my work identity?”  I do want to embrace the real me, but do I even like the real me?

In essence, this book is about shame and the fear of not being enough. I’m extremely familiar with the fear of not being enough, but not as familiar with shame. Brené Brown defines the opposite of shame and fear of not being enough as living whole-heartedly. Living wholeheartedly is letting go of who you think you are supposed to be and embracing who you really are, your authentic self. Embracing who you really are is also getting clarity on your gifts and talents as well as your imperfections.

How do I identify my authentic self? What do I believe are my gifts & talents and my imperfections? How do I let go of the fear of “what might people think” that drives my behavior? How do I believe that I am worthy of this life I am creating? How do I cultivate my unique talents? How do I rekindle my creative self? How do I start believing that I am enough?  Some super tough questions!

Brené Brown defines being authentic as choosing:

1) Courage versus Fear – Letting go of what other people might think means having the courage to be imperfect (so challenging for a perfectionist!), the courage to be vulnerable to criticism, and the courage to say no and set boundaries.

2) Compassion versus Judgment Practicing non-judgment of myself and of others. Recognize we are all doing the best we can.

3) Connection versus Feeling Alone – Realization that everyone has fears/worries. Practicing being a good friend.

A big part of understanding your authentic self is understanding your own shame triggers.  Shame is the belief that we are flawed, not good enough, un-lovable, incompetent. Shame is about who we believe we are (never good enough), not about what we did or failed to do. The belief that people will not like me because I am not worthy of love and belonging. So, we judge. We are not compassionate – to ourselves or to others. “When we don’t give ourselves permission to be free, we rarely tolerate that freedom in others.” We put them down, make fun of them, ridicule them, and shame them. I’ve not given myself permission to look foolish – to sing out loud, to dance, to make art – so neither can you.

My shame triggers (similar to many people) include:

  • Making mistakes, missing things, forgetting appointments or commitments. (Incompetence)
  • Being self-indulgent, self-focused, appearing selfish or narcissistic. (Flawed)
  • Being perceived as awkward, foolish, fat, and ungainly. (Not good enough)
  • Not doing what is considered “the right thing to do.” (Flawed)
  • The feeling that I have not had enough adversity, stress, or trauma in my life. I am not worthy because I have not suffered enough. [Yes, calling myself a cancer survivor feels disingenuous for me because my cancer was not that bad.]

Brown’s advice on how to manage shame: 1) Recognize it. Understand what triggers it. 2) Do a critical awareness-reality-check. Also, remember imperfect does not mean inadequate. 3) Share the story of the shameful experience with a trusted friend, the friend who responds with empathy and acceptance of you.

 

Brené Brown also spends time in her book on belonging and fitting in. It’s the primary reason why we try and be who we think we are supposed to be. I’ve spent my life trying to fit in! Assessing the situation and becoming who I need to be/what I need to do so that I am accepted. Seeking approval for my actions. Accommodating others needs. Acceptance & approval have been my key goals in life! (And yes, they still are.)

Yet Brown’s research would indicate that true belonging occurs when you are (and accept) your authentic (imperfect) self.   “In order to feel a true sense of belonging, I need to bring the real me to the table and that I can only do if I‘m practicing self-love.” It’s the complete opposite of the approach I’ve taken which has been do what it takes to fit in, be accepted, and then I’ll like myself.

Bringing my real self to the table means I like myself first. Do I treat myself with respect, kindness, and affection? Do I have self-compassion – the embrace of my own human imperfection? How do I begin to believe that I am enough? How do I like myself?

 

Based on the book, here’s my plan to like myself more:

  1. Be Hopeful. Hopefulness is knowing where I want to go (realistic goals), being able to figure out how to get there (and flexibility to change paths, the persistence to try again), and believing I can do it (I can put in the effort).
  2. Know Thyself. Write down and acknowledge my gifts & talents and accept my imperfections. Have the courage to accept I’m not perfect.
  3. Cultivate Gratitude (a spiritual practice). Have an attitude of gratitude (gratitude lists), practice mindfulness, and believe in the body-mind-spirit connection.
  4. Live Joyfully. Create and recognize experiences that make me happy.
  5. Let Go of Comparison. I am no longer on the accomplishment-acquisition track. I do not need to ‘fit in’ anywhere (be like everyone else). I don’t need to compare, nor compete.
  6. Put Aside Judgment – Recognize we are all doing the best we can. People are human, make mistakes, and get in bad moods. Stop being critical about things.
  7. Create A Mind-set of Sufficiency. I have enough; there is enough. I am worthy of love and belonging right now. I am enough, today. Not if. Not when. Right now.
  8. Enjoy the Being. My worthiness is not linked to my busy-ness nor my level of productivity. I can create art (write, doodle, collage, play with beads) merely for the sake of creating. My blogging is inspiring, contemplative, connecting….thought-provoking!
  9. Just do it. Twice in this past week I was encouraged to look myself in the eye, in the mirror, and say, “I love you”. Every day until I believe it.

I’ve been doing many of these steps in my retirement transition journey. I need a lot more work on #’s 6, 7, 8, & 9. Perhaps I am on the way to liking myself, and feeling that I am enough.

Do you know your shame triggers? Do you like yourself? Or do you need to work on liking yourself (as I am doing)?

32 thoughts on “Do You Like Yourself?

  1. I read this book once a year! And each time I learn how to accept myself a little bit more.

    I read a FaceBook meme this week that stopped me in my tracks. The first part asked (paraphrased): Name all the things you love. Easy enough. The second part asked: How long did it take before you named yourself. WOW! I’m still processing…

    GREAT post, Pat! I am pinning to #mlstl board for future reference.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for a very well-written and thoughtful blog. I’m sure this will come as no shock to you, but I’m pretty dang happy with myself. 😉 Do I have faults? You bet I do! Just ask my wife. 😂😂Selective hearing might be at the top of the list. However, I also look around at the rest of the world and I think, “you really aren’t doing all that badly.” Yes, there are improvements I’d like to make, both physically and mentally, but I don’t spend any time berating myself for where I am. I used to point out to our kids that with regard to any personal characteristic, they are somewhere on the normal distribution curve. There are always going to be people better than you and worse than you, so relax!

    Somewhere in adulthood (for reasons I can’t pinpoint) a switch flipped for me and I no longer cared what anyone thought of me from a personal point of view. (I still cared what my bosses thought of my work, of course.) Now that I am retired, I am free of the work-related caring which is a big relief.

    If I have shame over anything, it’s letting someone down. That could be as simple as missing an appointment (did that recently 🙄) or not getting something done by a promised deadline. Shame may even be a little strong of a description for that feeling. It’s more like anger over not being more competent.

    I admire your in-depth self-analysis, but just be careful not to let it paralyze you. I think your nine steps moving forward sound like a good prescription. Be careful of the standards you apply to yourself. You can set standards that are so stringent as to be completely out of your reach despite your best efforts. That is a recipe for despair and feelings of unworthiness. It is like the cumulative exams we took in grad school to qualify for the Ph.D. program. They could have made them so hard that no one ever would have passed, but what would be the point of that? They made them a fair test of what you should know at that point in your academic life. Were they still difficult? Certainly. Were they impossible? No. So, be kind to yourself and make your standards reasonable and reachable!

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    1. Bob, Of course I know you like yourself…. LOL. I think being kind to myself is a huge learning for me. I do have high standards… Tim is constantly telling me my expectations are too high for most things. I don’t think however that the 9 things are high standards…but rather shifts needed in my belief system and ways to live everyday. Being hopeful, grateful and compassionate (versus worrying, rethinking, and being judgmental). Recognizing the little moments of joy, including just being. Accepting my strengths….and not doing a compare & despair over other people’s strengths. Someday (soon) I’m going to be able to say “I’m pretty dang happy with myself”.

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  3. Hi Pat! Great post filled with positive reminders for us all. I too am a big fan of Brene’s and include a lot of her info in my own writing because i find I need to be reminded of her messages over and over. Like many women our age I also tend to think of myself as not quite “good” enough…whatever THAT means!…by trying to make other people happy and to like me. Talk about a loosing proposition. Slowly as I learn to appreciate myself and to disengage with what everyone else is thinking and doing, I’m more able to embrace the real me. I’ve also read (and I can’t remember if it was Brene who said it or not) that as we learn to love and appreciate ourselves and listen to our inner voices, the less we will be tied to what others think. That’s where my work is headed these days. I’d say my biggest “shame trigger” is caring more what others think about anything, and not paying attention to my own inner voice. Thanks for all these reminders. ~Kathy

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    1. Kathy, Why do so many of us (women of a certain age) feel like we are not good enough? I wonder if it was part of our cohort upbringing? Hmm, something to ponder on and maybe see if it’s been researched! I am working on loving and appreciating myself. Just this morning I stopped a “compare & despair” session pretty quickly…and was pleased I could. Little steps along the journey!

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  4. I really need to read this book. I actually quite like myself, but still struggle with the concept of being enough or good enough. I’m convinced that being short people will overlook me and have an image when meeting new people or networking that I’ll be perceived as being short, fat and boring with absolutely nothing to offer of interest. Yet when I’m meeting people on a work basis I have none of these fears – it’s something I save for meeting people on my own part or presenting my business. Weird, I know. Great post by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jo, Isn’t it odd how we can have a work persona and a non-work persona? I was similar for years. So much in fact that my MIL could not believe that I could do a reading at my SIL’s funeral because there was no-way I could stand up in front of a crowd and talk. At work, I was a trainer (of rooms of 50+ people) and had to present to management (10 plus critical folks) all the time. This was a pre-set reading. She had no clue I could do anything like that – quiet, shy Pat! It’s been weird since retirement to let go of that work me…. and to realize some of her is actually the real me. Net, please take some of that work confidence into your non-work life. It’s probably part of the real you. And I can tell you for sure…. you are not boring. I can’t see about the physical, but at 5’2″ and 175 lbs… I’m no svelte model either. But I can ask you… do you discount other people based on their appearance? A good critical-awarenss-reality check, hmm?

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  5. Hi Pat – I loved Brene’s book and I’ve written about so many of these same things because I’ve struggled with self doubt and not feeling like I’m “enough” all my life. I think it ties in with my word “More” too because it’s about acceptance and becoming true to myself – same as you. It’s not an instant fix to change 50+ years of indoctrination, but we need to start somewhere and I love that we’re on similar journeys and we’re going to succeed. It’s never too late to become our very best selves (minus the perfectionism pressure!) x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Leanne, I’m pretty sure you are one of the people who’s mentioned her to me, so thank you for introducing me to her. I love how you talk about “50+ years of indoctrination”. I used to say, “I was raised on guilt”. I know from our mutual posts and comments that we are on similar journey’s and it’s wonderful to be sharing the path with you. I wrote in my journal this morning a whole sequence about “I am enough”. If I say it enough, perhaps I’ll start to believe it.

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      1. Pat isn’t that the best part of Midlife blogging – that we get to share the journey together. It’s what’s helped me discover so much about myself and what I am capable of being once I shrug off all those years of being “less” – Maybe that’s why my WOTY “More” strikes such a note with me atm.
        Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I have always associated the word “shame” with purposefully doing something wrong, then feeling remorse (a good thing). When I see it being used as a description of feeling flawed, not good enough, being un-lovable, or incompetent – based on how we feel about ourselves, not our actions towards others, it strikes me as incredibly sad. We are all imperfect and flawed in some way. Accepting our unique selves, acknowledging our quirks, learning from our mistakes and resolving to do better when we mess up, are all positive ways to move through our lives. Feeling shame for being human seems so tragic. Your list reflects your desire for greater happiness, fulfillment, and enjoyment in retirement (all good things)… no shame in that! 🙂

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    1. Janis, I didn’t agree with everything she wrote, but the feelings of not good enough and incompetent really struck a chord. And understanding my triggers was helpful as well. Yes, my list is about all the good things I want in retirement…and that is where my focus is!

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  7. Oh Pat, what a great post! I think this question is a tough one for all of us. We all carry baggage and most of us grapple with the imperfections. Many of the items on your list are items on my list. It’s taken awhile, but I find retirement very freeing. I no longer have to try to fit in at work, get along, negotiate for my ideas or myself to be accepted. Relationships are easier. My identity is not tied to my title and job description. It’s tied to my authentic self. I get to write, draw, garden and yes, be a caregiver to my husband of 43 years. I can just be. You are more than enough. We all are. Hugs. K

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    1. Kathy, I am really trying to believe that I am enough. I am trying to just be, and like the me who that is. It’s getting easier…. the fact that I know what I need to do (the 9 things above) and am trying to do them is what is making a difference. All this is since retirement. Since meeting so many inspiring women and men on-line. And knowing we are all grappling with similar things. Thanks for the words of encouragement.

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  8. I love this book! It’s been a while since I read it. It might be time for a review. I can honestly say I like myself- most of the time. I am still vulnerable to shame triggers and people pleasing, but I’m getting better.

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    1. Christie, It was my first exposure to her thinking and I’ve since gotten another of her books. I think my biggest focus has been on not doing the Compare & Despair. To be OK with my unique self, my plans, my choices. Someday maybe I’ll be able to say “I’m getting better at it” too!

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  9. Hi Pat, this post fits perfectly with my Week 3 of #FitFabFeb2019 – Building Self-Belief. One of the exercises I wrote about is writing down who you admire and what traits you admire about them and then doing the same thing about yourself. I love all of your points and will be incorporating them myself. I’m going to share your post on my FB Group for FFF. Thanks for the inspiration and have a beautiful week. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sue, I actually tried a variation of that exercise awhile ago and really struggled with the “doing the same thing about me”. I recall some time last year you encouraged us to write 10 things we loved about ourselves.. it took me months to create that list. I think I need to relook at it; loving myself is definitely a work in progress for me. Thanks for sharing the post on the FB group!!

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      1. Hi Pat, it certainly isn’t an easy exercise but I do believe it is a valuable one, even if it takes time. We need to concentrate on our strengths rather than letting the self-critic be too vocal. Sometimes I think mine never shuts up! Thanks for being part of the #MLSTL community and I always enjoy your writing because it makes me think. Enjoy your weekend. xx

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Tom, I’m getting much better at #5…but #6 is so difficult for me. I’ve always been critical and judgmental…with very high expectations and standards. In the past few weeks, I’ve had 2 friends gently point out I’m being too critical of others (service people). In each case, I had to take a deep breath and realize #6 needs work!

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  10. Hi Pat,
    I am adding this book to my reading list. As I read your post I was thinking “this could be me”. As Joanne says, we are all works in progress.
    Perfectionism can be crippling…I know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nancy, I am trying very hard to not be a perfectionist. To lovingly accept the imperfections. And yeah, it’s a work in progress for sure. Also, I would recommend this book to read. I’ve actually gotten another of Brown’s books… while I didn’t agree with everything she talks about, there was a lot of “this could be me” in it for me as well!

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  11. “…my cancer was not that bad” – oh Pat. You ARE a survivor – you suffered this frightening episode in your life and came out the other side. I hope you’ll be able to let go of your feeling of ‘unworthiness’ of calling yourself a survivor.

    We are all flawed in some way. Unfortunately those of us who need acceptance and approval seem to feel our flaws outweigh our positive points. I’ve come to the conclusion that we ARE the creative masterpiece we’ll be working on for our entire lives.

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