What You Think!
By Tricia Greaves
For too many years I suffered from a bad case of “approval-seeking.” I would do anything to gain validation from others, and to avoid the horrible feelings of another’s disapproval. I based my entire self-worth on what others thought of me. If I could get others to think I was wonderful, then I believed I was wonderful. And if they were mad at me or didn’t like me, I felt worthless. I became a chameleon; I was always agreeable and jumping to fix other people’s problems. I never wanted to risk stating how I really felt, for fear that it would rock the boat and cause conflict (something else I avoided at all costs!)
Living this way, I resented many people; I felt I was overworked and “underappreciated.” Despite my happy facade, I was filled with bitterness. I saw myself as a victim of others’ mistreatment, when the truth was that I was really just a victim of my own fear. I was afraid to be me. Every time I didn’t place value on my own opinions or feelings by honoring them in my actions and decisions, I gave a little piece of myself away. Living my life dependent on the opinion of others was my prescription for inner turmoil, depression, addiction, and chaos.
Change came through hitting a hard wall with this character flaw, and by seeking the loving support of a very wise mentor who coached me to find my inner voice and to express it without fear. I was finally able to make that jump from bondage to others’ approval, to unleashing the power within to make decisions that were both self-respecting and self-esteem building. Learning to value my own opinions and desires has had a ripple effect through every area of my life: I am free to be myself, and in turn I can allow others to be whoever and however they choose to be.
Here are some important lessons to remember as you learn to find and express your own inner voice:
1. How you feel and what you need are just as important as the feelings and needs of others. Instead of always dismissing your ideas and feelings as “not that important,” you need to value them and see that you are equal to all others. What you feel and think is worthy of being heard.
2. You will not die from saying how you feel. At one time I believed that I would die, or others would die from hearing my honest feelings and opinions (I am not talking about being hurtful.) Only by practicing speaking up have I learned this is not the case at all. Not only did I not die, but I have become empowered.
3. You will not die if someone disagrees with your decisions. I thought I would crumble without the approval of others, but when I was willing to feel the initial uncomfortable feelings I experienced when others did not agree with or like my decisions, I got stronger and the fear of such feelings got weaker.
4. When you follow your own heart, people around you may at first be uncomfortable, but THEY ADJUST! It amazed me that no matter how threatened others were with the “new me,” when I persisted in doing what was right for me, they eventually settled down and got used to my new ways; in fact, they even respected me for them!
5. By being true to yourself, and thriving on account of it, you are setting an example that will inspire others to step out and make changes themselves. Your gift to yourself is also a gift to others.
6. It is no one’s responsibility to read you mind. You must speak up! You can’t blame others for not doing it “your way” when you are not even willing to express yourself and what you want! Change means letting go of the games of pouting and making others feel bad for not reading your mind. I no longer feel “misunderstood,” because I speak up and give others an opportunity to understand me!
7. Resentments come from not speaking up and being heard. Resentments erode your soul and your health. Discuss your feelings until you feel resolved and then MOVE ON.
8. Everyone has their own Higher Power. When you “play God” in others’ lives by trying to take care of their feelings or fix their problems, you rob them of the peace and sense of security that come from turning to their own Creator for guidance and solutions.
9. Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean. The tendency for people who are afraid of being honest and forthright is to build up so much fear and resentment, that they blurt out their feelings, often offending others with the force of their delivery. Practice saying what you mean in a direct way, with kindness and respect.
10. Give yourself permission to be awkward as you begin to speak up. This is not an easy transition to make. Know that at first you may stumble over your words, you may not get your point across, and that others may not like your speaking up. Just because others may not agree with what you say does not mean that your beliefs are wrong. Don’t apologize for you opinion: “This may be a stupid thing to say, but…” Or, after they express a difference of opinion, don’t backpedal by saying, “You’re right, I’m wrong; I don’t know what I was thinking.” Hold your head high! Everyone respects people who risk being the minority voice. And you will be surprised to find that often others will join you and you will become the majority voice.
You embark on a new relationship with yourself and others when you respond from what is in your heart rather than react to what is on others’ minds. Self-esteem comes from taking risks and being YOU, not from the approval of others. You will be amazed at the new freedom you will feel when you are true to yourself and no longer dependent on the opinions of others. Your own approval will become enough, and you will realize your true worth when it is!
Tricia Greaves is the founder of Be Totally Free!, which provides help and hope to those suffering from eating disorders, addictions, and a myriad of emotional difficulties. This service is completely free of charge. For information, visit www.betotallyfree.com or call (310) 281-8831.
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