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Strengthening Your Sense of Self & Identity

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Our sense of self is molded by the things we see, hear and feel throughout our lives. In early life our identity and sense of self comes primarily from the relationship or attachment we form to those closest to us. Our parents, family and community created a “climate” for our inner development to adapt to and take shape.

Later in life, as our experiences extend beyond the confines of our immediate relationships, we start to add and subtract beliefs and habits to form our own identity. These may be healthy or unhealthy choices depending on our ability to understand and express the feelings and emotions we experience. Where there is no language or space to be you and express your wants and needs, and most importantly, have them be validated, we rebel. If you won’t accept me I will find acceptance somewhere else.

Trauma, at any age, distorts our experience of ourselves and the world and in order to make sense of these distortions we create meaning that explains why they occurred. The younger we are the more likely that story places us at the center and we fully accept the shame that comes with it. I’m bad, I’m wrong, it was my fault, I asked for it, if I were different, if I had known and on and on – we accept the labels, blame and shame as our own. From there we perpetuate those beliefs through unconscious choice making and relational patterns that reinforces that story over and over.

The process of reclaiming and rebuilding a strong, healthy sense of self requires first and foremost looking critically at your life. What is your life reflecting back to you and where are you focusing your attention?

What is the common story you tell yourself when things go right?
When things go wrong?

Your life is like a mirror reflecting back to you the life you either created or agreed to. It is mostly unconscious. The way to understand and change it is to stop, look and listen.

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Reclaiming your power.
“…no one gives you power, you just take it” Rosanne Barr

If we grew up in an environment where power was abused through force we learned that power is something some people have and others don’t. We learn that power is what you need to win and someone always loses. But power is much more complicated than that. Personal power is everything and nothing. It is not authority, which is power entrusted. It is not force, which is power stolen. Power is equally strength and restraint. True authentic power is knowledge, wisdom and understanding about ourselves and the conviction that we know who we are.

Unveiling and Rewriting Your Story: What are your core beliefs?

Core Beliefs – “Unconditional beliefs that serve as a basis for screening, categorizing, and interpreting experiences. For example, “I’m no good.” “Others can’t be trusted.” “Effort does not pay off.” These often operate outside of the individual’s awareness and often are not clearly verbalized.”  Source

cbt4

  • What do I believe to be true about myself?  Where did it come from?
  • What messages have I claimed for myself
  • What messages have I accepted to belong or survive
  • What assumptions am I operating from as a result of these beliefs?
  • How do these beliefs effect my thoughts feelings and behaviors?

How do I know what is really me? And what is not me?

As you move through each day, stop, look at what is happening in this moment, and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I like it?
  • Do I want it?
  • Why is it good for me?
  • What do I need right now?
  • How do I feel?

As you take the time and allow yourself to REFLECT, ASK and ANSWER these questions you strengthen self knowledge.  You won’t get it right every time especially at first. That’s okay – keep going.  As you learn to trust yourself it will become more automatic and you will gravitate toward the answers you know you like. It is not selfish to take the time and space to discover what you need and feel- that is part of your responsibility as an adult.

It is our responsibility to create the environment
in which we can thrive

My world is a reflection of the choices made by me or for me. Do you feel empowered? Are you thriving? To reclaim your power and control in your own life you have to know how to make choices that you can not only live with, but be happy with.  Choices that lead you to effortless happiness. That is thriving. Start simply and pay attention to each choice.

Every day try to reflect on these three questions:
What choices did I make today that feel good?
What choices did I make today that are leading me where I want to go?
What am I most grateful for today?

As you strengthen your knowledge about who you are and what you want you will drop the need to justify and explain or apologize when your needs and wants do not appease others.  All healthy relationships allow space for negotiating wants and needs and when that isn’t allowed, your new empowered self will make the best choice for you.

As you turn your attention to what is working you will find it easier and easier to make that choice.

That is where you find happiness and where you will THRIVE!