Dr T. regularly challenges the way I word things. I think this is called cognitive therapy. She "pokes at" the words I am using to draw attention to the way I think about things. Very much the glass half full/half empty type of stuff.
Well it's working! The way I "speak" to myself has changed dramatically, and the way I see myself has too :) I have worked hard to replace that critical inner voice with an encouraging one. Today I came up with something. It is similar to Steven Covey's 7 habits of highly effective people (all people should read this book- its not a "self help" book, it is a book about living in a way that reflects your values, HIGHLY recommended) I decided today to record my values and strengths.
I had done this before, when I read the book. But the difference between then and now is I didn't know myself at all at the time. I was trying to shape myself into an "acceptable" person. I had no regard or respect for the person I already was. I had a perfect image of what I "should be" in my head, and I saw myself as unacceptable until I reached that perfect point. Of course, with that attitude, I would never be good enough, since perfect is impossible, so it is no wonder that years on that impossible path led to feeling suicidal.
Today I was able to narrow down some core values. I decided that since I value such things I can also call them my strengths. My house is very dirty. There is oil splatters on the wall next to the stove. My bedroom is often a pile of boxes and clothes that I have to walk over to reach my bed. Even though my house is in that condition I have the right to call "order" a strength. It is a strength because I care. Many people have messy homes, and while they usually don't like it, it's not something that is a priority for them. "Order" is a strength that I have, it matters to me and I work towards that goal.
Math might be a person's strength, but if they are faced with a very large, complex problem, they might take a long time to solve it. An incomplete problem is not proof that someone is bad at math, it just means it's a big problem. A person can work on a problem for years and get nowhere if they use an ineffective method over and over.
The reason my house is not yet orderly is, I am approaching my goal in the wrong way.
I repeatedly organize and clean my environment, but it remains "dirty" because I own too many things to keep maintained in a reasonable amount of time.
Another strength I have the right to claim is "Bravery." I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, so my life is virtually ruled by fear, but I am still brave. If 75% of the time I choose not to do something, because I am afraid, I am still brave, because 25% of the time I am standing up to that fear. I may meet 24 men where I put up a front, because I am afraid of intimacy or of being rejected, but if I am myself with a twenty-fifth man, I am still brave. I value bravery, and so I am brave.
Ten years ago I would have scoffed at this blog. I would say "If I were soft on myself like that I would never accomplish a thing." I thought that way because I had no faith in myself and my abilities. I thought the only reason I got anything done was because I bullied myself, but now I see I would have gotten more done had I encouraged myself, since I held back to avoid failing, leading to further self-bullying.
These are the Values/Strengths I can recognize right now:
I value Kindness, and I am Kind
I value Ethics, and I am Ethical
I value Caring, and I am Caring
I value Humor, and I am Funny
I value Order, and I am Orderly
I value Creativity, and I am Creative
I value Music, and I am Musical
I value Aesthetics, I am Aesthetic
I value Intelligence, and I am Intelligent
I value Strength, and I am Physically Strong
I value Strength, and I am Emotionally Strong
I cannot put into words how good it feels to become aquainted with myself. It makes me feel more solid to learn who the person I am is. I have spent so many years of my life being a chameleon, trying to impress others so they would give me reassurance that I was acceptable. I wasted so much energy that I could have put into making myself happy. It makes me happy to learn that I am already acceptable. I have unique qualities and strengths (some more developed than others of course) and I now can spend my life developing them, instead of punishing myself for being the impossible...perfect.
Mood: very positive and warm, not to mention creative and bright :)
Oh, and pssssssst...now that I am using my very-well-developed strength of kindness on myself- I am starting to like this woman I am becoming acquainted with. ;)