Identity And Thoughts: Changing The Cultural Narrative For Highly Sensitive People

Do your thoughts drive you crazy?

Do you ruminate a lot and feel that you are going around in circles?

Do you think that your thoughts control you?

What Are Our Thoughts?

Our thoughts are mental pictures that we create.  They often seem automatic and out-of-control. They are a natural consequence of our interaction with daily life and are your way of processing and dealing with what is happening around you and to you.

Our thoughts are our mind’s desire to take care of us. They also are a way of our dealing with the unknown and unknowable. Our thoughts support our assumed identities and try to identify our place in the world. They help us to belong.

Unfortunately, our thoughts often seem to be running our lives.

Why Are Our Thoughts So Painful?

For many thoughts can be very painful because through our thoughts we determine here we stand in life. Our thoughts are essentially left brained operating in a linear way and aligned with the manifested world. They are mathematical and materialistic.

If we identify with our left brained thoughts then we are only looking at a small part of reality and not necessarily what is true.

One of the reasons thoughts can be painful is because they attempt to place us in an identity that works in a world that often has preconceived ideas about who we are and should be.

Our Thoughts And The Cultural Narrative

Our thoughts can be a lot of things. They can be about personal aspects of our lives as well as the public aspects. Sometimes they have a short term focus. Sometimes not.

Most often they seem to be a way of interpreting and dealing with the cultural narrative around us. The problem with continually engaging in this way is that the cultural narrative usually has a life of its own. For highly sensitive people, the cultural narrative is usually about non-HSP life and lifestyles so it is basically not about them.

We can, therefore, feel left out and our thoughts do not necessarily help us with that.

However, we are not here to serve a social structure. We are here to become our best self. Sometimes the social structure and our evolution are at odds and we are not suppose to fit in.

Reclaiming Your Narrative

It is important to have a sense of yourself separate from the narrative around you.

Narratives about life are just stories as the research on human evolution in Spiral Dynamics show. Narratives are the social structure created to support and justify a particular cultural embodiment. They change when we need to change. They are not sacred. One person’s narrative is not necessarily another person’s narrative.

Narratives are not necessarily the TRUTH.

When you try to be a part of the cultural narrative and take your identity from it, you may be creating problems for yourself.

Identifying with the cultural narrative works for many non-HSPs since the narrative usually reflects them.  It may feel wrong that they can be so comfortable in the cultural narrative when as a highly sensitive person you feel like an outsider.

For that reason, you have to identify a narrative for yourself or your thoughts will be dominated by ideas related to a narrative that doesn’t suit you and only causes you mental frustration.

Creating Your Own Narrative

Highly sensitive people need to create their own narrative.

We need to separate ourselves from the dominant narrative. To do so we need to make some mental adjustments:

  • see the existing cultural narrative as changing rather than fixed.
  • align your narrative with the evolutionary process going on around you. That way you support improvements in life and are not simply fighting the existing cultural narrative.
  • notice how your narrative can be helpful to others as a way to help you maintain your ability to connect with others.

When you take back your narrative, you can eliminate a lot of the thoughts you have about your place in the existing system and let your thoughts now serve where you are going and what you are becoming.

It is a great way to stop ruminating and start creating the life you deserve.

The Gift Of Compassion From Sensitive People

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always handle doctor’s office visits well especially with procedures involving unexpected pain. All too often, there is a sudden cold sweat followed by nausea and lightheadedness signaling I’m getting ready to faint. For the Highly Sensitive, fainting can be our ingrained response to the invasiveness of  modern medicine followed by the emotional recognition of what is actually happening to our bodies. Dramatic as it may seem, I need to avert my eyes when receiving injections lest I find myself requiring smelling salts in the aftermath.

Giving And Receiving Compassion

There is a bright spot in these experiences; whenever my face turns that pasty shade of gray during a procedure, I’m deeply touched by the compassion shown by the nurses who come to my aid. In the face of an environment where people are often at their physical and sometimes emotional worst, nursing is the profession where I encounter the highest number of Highly Sensitive people in the workplace. Perhaps everything is as it should be; our inherent capacity to feel another’s person’s distress brings with it the compassion generated from experiencing that pain first hand.

Always a remembered gift to those receiving it, compassion isn’t something which can be faked. You have it to give or you don’t. While for the Highly Sensitive extending compassion may feel like a second nature, understanding the gift of receiving it sometimes requires a bit more work.

Manny’s Compassion

Some years ago I attended a workshop hosted by author Manny Twofeathers. Manny was standing by the front door of the bookstore as I pulled into the parking lot by the front of the building. He had stepped outside to clear his head after giving intuitive readings for clients most of the afternoon. I was glad to see him again. During a lecture he had presented  few weeks earlier  regarding his experiences with the Sundance Ceremony outlined in his book My Road to the Sundance, he had shown me how to tie a prayer flag for a friend  diagnosed with breast cancer. Taking it with him when he left, Manny mentioned it would be taken to a sacred spot where he would pray for her. That was Manny; in his role as an Elder he extended compassion towards people through actions reflecting  his deep spiritual faith.

At the bookstore that evening,  Manny was hosting a divination workshop based on his latest book; Stone People Medicine. After a brief introduction where he explained the role and use of the stones and cards used in the divination process, Manny had us sit at a circular table. He sat next to me on my left. Handing me the cards and the stones, he told me to read for the woman sitting on my right in order to answer questions she had about her life. His actions startled me, I had expected that he would show us the process by reading for us. Due to my sensitivity I didn’t always like to be in the spotlight especially in front of  a group of strangers. Studying his face for a brief moment, I tried to get a read on his thoughts, but his eyes were hidden behind the deep wrinkles of his face. While I had often done one on one intuitive work for friends, I had never “read” for someone I didn’t know and the thought of it made me  uncomfortable.

Honoring The Gift Of Compassion

Manny watched silently as I consulted the stones and cards to answer the woman’s question. His only  response, when I was done was to ask her if her question had been fully answered. Thinking I was finished, I tried to hand the cards and stones back to him but he wouldn’t take them. Instead, he told me to read for the person sitting next to her. Regardless of my discomfort, the process continued. Manny directed me to read for every person at the table; finally finishing with the owner of the bookstore who was sitting next to Manny. Her reading was the hardest of all;  the divination predicted very dry times ahead, leaving me with a vision of such desolation it almost brought me to tears.

Manny continued the process by having some of the other people sitting at the table read for others.But, I had been the only one chosen to read for all. Although curious about why  he had chosen me to read for everyone, I knew it would be very disrespectful to ask an Elder about his actions. I could feel there was a bigger picture at play here and  for that I was grateful.

After the workshop had ended, I went over to Manny to thank him. Accepting my thanks, he looked me in the eye and said that my visions were very strong. That was his only comment about the workshop. One thing about the Highly Sensitive, we know instantly when someone is not being honest with us. I didn’t get that feeling as he spoke although I had a hard time believing it. In hindsight, the workshop was a turning point in my life and his words would be a source of comfort. Through those words, I began to see myself and my spiritual path in a different light; I knew I didn’t need to hide the intuitive aspect of myself from strangers for fear of ridicule or criticism.

After the workshop, I never saw Manny again. He became ill and died in a Tuscon, Arizona VA Hospital during June of the following year. In my bedroom is one of the dream catchers Manny made and sold while on the road. Due to my strong belief  in the power of our dreams I had purchased it from the owner of the bookstore not too long after the workshop. Hanging above the headboard,  it is a beautiful reminder  of our conversation. Ever silent it protects us from the images contained within the shadow side of our dreams as my  wife and  I travel the terrain of the dreamscape.

Stepping Into The Gift Of Compassion

A few weeks ago while standing in my den, I felt a strong urge to read  My Road to the Sundance over  again. Later that evening, I broke out in goosebumps when reading his words on page 65. Summarizing his insights from an experience where he felt unworthy when asked to pray for a woman Elder after one of the first Sundance Ceremonies, he wrote; ” We believe that sometimes the creator sends a helper to teach us. If she was a helper, I think her mission was to show me I was now ready to help people. In helping her, it gave me confidence in my ability to help others.” 

For the Highly Sensitive, compassion appears in many forms. We don’t always recognize it when it appears. But, the end result is always the same; we are supported through what is experienced as a mental or physical challenge. I hadn’t seen the compassion in Manny’s actions during the workshop because I was too engaged in the energy of my fears. But I saw it then and his compassion is what I’ll always remember about him.

Manny always admonished us to give something back to the world as a gesture of thanks whenever we receive anything in our lives. The law of Karma, as recognized in the ancient spiritual traditions of India reminds us that every choice made creates the landscape of our daily journeys. Both work hand in hand. For the Highly Sensitive, perhaps our naturally compassionate actions is a way of giving back to the world a taste of the  gift we have been given; a way of returning our capacity to feel deeply, to those who need it most.

Inner Peace Improves Creativity

Inner peace improves creativity.

Based on my experience as a creative person, inner peace takes us to a different place that improves our ability to come up with fresh ideas.

Brainstorming Is Not Creativity

I have nothing against brainstorming – either by yourself or with others. But here’s the thing: brainstorming is often about what we already know.

When we get together with others we each take what we know and pool it with everyone else’s knowledge and come up with an idea or strategy. This is great up to a point and in increasingly complex institutional environments can be very useful – after all, there is too much for any one person to know.

When we brainstorm we mostly rehash what we know. Unfortunately, it is usually linear, left brained activity meant to enhance the status quo.

Brainstorming, then, can be limited in what it considers as potential ideas. It may be limited to what exists and what others will accept.

So is it creativity?

What Is Creativity?According to one online dictionary, creativity is:

  • the state or quality of being creative
  • the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.;
  •  originality, progressiveness, or imagination: the need for creativity in modern industry; creativity in the performing arts. the process by which one utilizes creative ability: Extensive reading stimulated his creativity.

What is key in the definition is the word, imagination. Imagination is a right brained activity. It claims the connections that we cannot make any other way. It offers us the unknown for our progress in solving a problem or developing something new.

Is Imagination Endangered?

Left brained mental processes have dominated human culture in the West for centuries. They are an outgrowth of the scientific method which is evidence based and relies on the material world.

Imagination is elusive. It is energy based and connected to the universal field, the source of all intelligence in the universe.

Science developed as an antidote to superstition. It does not respect the spiritual, psychic and energetic realms, although that is beginning to change a little. The discredited realms of modern life are also the home of the imagination, which we find cute and interesting in children, not adults.

The Universal Field And Creativity

The universal field is an important support of human life. It is the emptiness and silence of oneness where those wild ideas of the imagination come from. It is, therefore, a great resource for our creative endeavors.

Here’s the rub.

You cannot force it.

You have to be open to it.

Creative ideas require that we are receptive to them or they cannot make their way to us because we have closed ourselves off to them. Receptivity is a feminine quality and one that is discredited in modern culture. Therefore many are often not receptive to new ideas and it is not just an individual problem it is also a societal problem.

Those who are in touch with their imaginations, their creativity and the universal field may find themselves isolated and have difficulty communicating their ideas and gaining acceptance for them. How many people are really open to and in touch with the universal field?

Inner Peace And Creativity

Creative challenges aside, the universal field is our source for creative support. Interestingly, we learn to move into its stillness through meditation. Yes, the same meditation that helps us find inner peace.  Meditation helps us let go of the petty difficulties of everyday life. It helps us become more comfortable with silence than the drama of everyday life.

In doing so, we quiet the mental chatter that distracts us from our creative source and allow ourselves to receive new information. We open ourselves to new possibilities simply by being open to the universal silence. Meditation helps us find inner peace and in doing so also helps us find and embrace our creative potential.

Put Negativity In Its Place

Negativity is not what you think.

Negativity is often thought to be a personal character trait.

There is some truth to that but it is so much more.

What Is Negativity?

According to the Your Dictionary, negativity,  at least in a social or decision making sense, is defined as follows:

  1. a word, affix, phrase, etc. that denies, rejects, or refuses (Ex.: no, not, by no means)
  2. a statement of denial, refusal, or rejection
  3. the point of view that denies or attacks the positive or affirmative: the negative won the debate
  4. an undesirable element or quality; drawback, shortcoming, defect, etc…

It is particularly useful to see the definition of negativity as a point of view that denies the positive because negativity is not simply a response to immediate events or misfortunes in life.  It may, in fact, be a world view.

The Free Dictionary defines negativism as

a habitual attitude of skepticism or resistance to the suggestions, orders, or instructions of others…

As the definition points out,  negativism is a habit of thought.

Negative Is Not Good Or Bad

Negativity has received bad press. It is strange, really, because on the one hand we abhor negativity – it is so depressing – but at the same time we also abhor change.

It makes me wonder if most of our social discourse is the collision of different forms of negativity.

To be negative can mean anything. It can mean that we are setting boundaries, respecting our limits and making chices that are life affirming.

To be negative can mean that we are totally risk adverse, and prefer to let others do the heavy lifting of making change happen.

To be negative can mean that we are stingy with ourselves to the detriment of others.

To be negative can mean that we are respecting our own negative experiences in order to live from a wiser place.

To be negative can mean a lot of different things. It depends on the person.

Can Negativity Be Systemic?

Yes, it can. Whenever we try to maintain the status quo in the face of the need for change we are supporting negativity.

Change is a big deal and needs to be respected. However, ignoring the need for change only makes things worse. When changing circumstances do not result in appropriate responses, then we are all harmed.

Nothing stays the same.  A 2 year old enjoys learning to move a round, but we so demand that a person still be crawling at age 18. The same needs to be true of cultural systems.

We all, however, have resistance to change. It is natural and can be self protective. We need, after all, to respect the limits of time, resources and abilities. We can, therefore, empathize with resistance to change. It is part of being a human being.

When we are aware of our resistance to change, respect it but are also skeptical about it, we then can thoughtfully make necessary changes. Cultures can do the same.

Not all systemic negativity, however, is so benign.

Discrimination As Systemic Negativity

Discrimination is a serious and cruel form of systemic negativity. It is not based on facts. It is a use of attitude to exclude and denigrate other people. It is a kind of negativity that extends to animals and nature, because underneath it is a basic distrust of life and people.

I am not trying to be pollyanish here and deny the reality of negative behavior and even evil behavior. I am talking about a way of thinking that denies the good in others. It is a way of refusing to relate and work with others, a way of denying the reality of an ecosystem that includes different people and life forms.

Discrimination is essentially a power grab that controls decision making and resources and tries to maintain that control by managing a social discourse that devalues others.

Resistance As A Way Of Life

Unfortunately, it is easy to get caught up in resistance. We can encounter resistance and react to the resistance and we are then all off and running into a negative spiral.

I think we have to be as intelligent and considered as we can be about negativity and resistance. it is there, but we do not have to give it its head. We can pu it in its place as simply one approach among many  and get on with what we have to get on with.

I think there is a spirit afoot of being fed up with negativity that I think is healthy. If we each do our part, perhaps the legacy of negativity that the world has suffered with for so long, no longer has to be our future.

 

 

Breaking The Failure Taboo

Failure is something that many of us if not all of us have been taught to be afraid of.

Unfortunately, failure is a big subject and perceptions about failure are not necessarily innocent.

Fear of failure causes so many people to hide and makes them afraid to be themselves. What a loss!

Why Failure Is Such A Big Subject

Failure has been a big subject throughout human history.

If you take a look at ancient myths and stories many of them are as much about failure as about bravery.

In early human societies, failure was dangerous. Failure was life threatening and the consequences were often death. Even community games required or resulted in human sacrifice. The Mesoamerican Ballgame of early Aztec societies was one example, but there are many others.

Failure was particularly problematic for early humans, because they had very little knowledge about the actual causes and effects of events in their lives. You could say that life was a guessing game but a serious one.

The Seriousness Of Failure Stuck

There was certainly plenty to be afraid of in early human societies.

War, disease, weather, lack of resources were all factors that made life seem fragile. However, it seems that we often made the problem worse with superstitious rule making and worship of gods and ancestors. Although they were forms of self protection, they were practices that led to some serious scapegoating. I would have been afraid to be alive then myself.

People who were different were definitely targets of superstition and to some degree are still today. Perhaps because the uncertainty of survival resources, like food and water as well as continual war made demands on each society extreme.

The Fear Of Scapegoating

What constitutes success and failure have been and are still culturally prescribed. Your occupation, performance and family status are three ways in which we are often judged. We have also inherited our fears about not measuring up.

The serious need to ensure our survival as a species has come at a serious cost. We have so limited what we call acceptable behavior that we often to not realize how much we have cut ourselves off from our natural abilities and talents.

In addition, the serious treatment of and consequences for failure, real or not, right or not, has stuck in our mental programming. To this day, we humans do not handle failure well.

The fear of scapegoating is a serious inhibitor of our social, professional and creative behavior. In many cases we not be aware of it as an inherited fear. It is there under the surface and deep inside us if we look and reflect on it.

Failure And Creativity

Failure is such a big deal that human creativity has been controlled and thwarted for thousands of years in the attempt to create some stability and certainty in human societies. As justified as the desire for stability is, the universe – all parts of it – is essentially creative.

I am always amazed by animals who take the uncertainty of life in stride and find a way to enjoy the good they find. They do not fight life as we often do.

When we fight our natural creativity, we are fighting life and ourselves. At the end of the day, that cannot be rewarding or an enjoyable way to live life.

We all know of individuals or have ourselves experienced the blame that gets put on people for something they did not do or over which they had no control.We all know how wrong it is and how lousy it feels to be scapegoated. Do we, however, pay too high a price to avoid that fate?

What Is Failure?

It is worth considering what failure is. Failure has been associated with vulnerability and uncertainty for thousands of years.

But that is not really what it is.

Much effort has been made in the past 50 years to recognize the degree to which our lives are dominated by the stories we tell ourselves and others about life. These stories often relate to our vulnerability – self created and culturally created. Often these stories shut down our creativity.

By embracing the colorful but potentially “dangerous” aspect of ourselves we can open ourselves up to our creativity and take responsibility for it.Creativity is not irresponsibility.  It may actually be irresponsible not to embrace our full creativity.

I am all for some comfort in life. However, we need to realize that security is a story we tell ourselves just like any other. When we rigidly put safety first we not only deny reality which never works, but also sacrifice quality of life and joy for stability.

Is that really the trade-off we want to be making?

A Reexamination Of Comfort Zones And Creativity

Being in one’s comfort zone or not seems to be a marker of all sorts of wonderful traits including creativity and progressiveness. I can even be a path to success and wealth!

I consider myself a creative person. However, I find many ideas about comfort zones, and getting out of them, to have very little to do with creativity and creating a good life for yourself.

Since I perceive quality of life something that we can and need to create for ourselves, I think that reevaluating comfort zones is a necessary step before it is possible to actually improve your life.

Distorting Comfort Zones

Current ideas of comfort zones, in particular getting out of one’s comfort zone, are very much tied to the growth model of economic progress. Getting out of one’s comfort zone appears to have become somewhat of a cultural ideal and I think that is problematic. Being uncomfortable is not necessarily better than being comfortable. It is important to be able to know when to step out of comfort zones and when not to.

Here are some reasons, a society might value having people move out of their comfort zones:

  • if our comfort zone is “bad”, we will seek continuous self-improvement. Although there is nothing wrong with learning, it is better when it is for healthy reasons rather than to live up to a cultural ideal,
  • we buy and consume more, in particular more than we need. If living in a smaller house and having fewer possessions makes sense for us, it will be demeaned in a consumption based economic system. “Enough” is just a synonym for your comfort zone.
  • it can be thought of as supporting the hypermasculine culture of Western civilization with its emphasis on markets, competition, conquest, and expansion. Nurturing and sustaining activities are mostly devalued. One example of the mindset occurs with those people who assert that they will rest when they are dead, as if rest is a waste of time.
  • if we are out of our comfort zones, we may not be true to ourselves. For example, we are out of our comfort zone when we pretend to be happy when we are not. If we do this often enough we lose access to and recognition of our real feelings and true selves.
  • if we go along with getting out of our comfort zone as a cultural model, we may not be able to identify our real values and aspirations.
  • there is more to comfort zones than the demands of a hyper consuming society.
  • getting out of one’s comfort zone is not about becoming extreme in sports or any other endeavor.
  • getting out of one’s comfort zone implies that what is natural may not be good. Should we be rude because being cordial is in our comfort zone?
  • dissing comfort zones suggests that the ordinary is not good enough. Actually the ordinary is magnificent if we can stop long enough to see it.

Getting out of one’s comfort zone can be as mindless as any other idea.

Reframing Comfort Zones

One way to get out of the trap of comfort zones is to reframe what you are doing because frankly your comfort zone is really not all that important an idea to wrap your life around. It certainly should not be a reason for doing anything.

If you make yourself present to where you are, what you want or need to do and the steps to accomplish what you need to do, how do comfort zones enter into that?

Do you need to get out of your comfort zone when brushing your teeth. Perhaps standing on your head while brushing would be out of your comfort zone, but would it be worthwhile to do so?

Perhaps you should consider sleeping standing up because that would be out of your comfort zone.

A Better Use Of Comfort And Discomfort

All absolutes are problematic, because there aren’t any. Absolutes are an illusion. So turning anything into an absolute as a guide for living life is a mistake. That includes “getting out of your comfort zone” if you use it as a measure of whether or not what you are doing is a good idea.

It is far better to use comfort to determine when something is working or not. We use it as a tool for learning and living in a healthier way.

We HSPs have the ability because we are so intuitive, creative and in touch with our feelings to notice comfort and discomfort as a way to make life work better – not as an absolute but as a tool for compassionate living.

That is really the value of discomfort and comfort and one of the wonderful ways HSPs can add a lot of value and magic to the world.

Meditation Increases Self Discipline And Self-Acceptance

You know the drill.  You are sensitive and therefore it is assumed that you are unstable.

And so you get marginalized. After all, sensitivity means you are not tough enough. It means you are unreliable.

NOT SO!

Researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough discovered a link between sensitivity and self-discipline in their study about meditation. The study demonstrated that meditators were more accepting of their emotions which impacted their performance.

The Effect Of Meditation On Emotions

“Willpower … may relate to ‘emotional intelligence’,” said Michael Inzlicht, associate professor of psychology at UTSC. According to the study, meditators were more open to their emotions. This “emotional intelligence” has a strong impact on the ability of an individual to be disciplined on tasks.

When you meditate, and I am speaking from my 15+ years of experience with Transcendental Meditation, thoughts come and go. You do not attach to them. Sometimes they subside or stop. There is a flow to thoughts and feelings and the more you let the flow happen, the less likely you are to see them as part of your identity.

When you detach your identity from your thoughts and emotions, it is easier to accept them as part of the flow of life. You then take thoughts and emotions less personally and you become emotionally freer. Meditation promotes emotional freedom so that you can apply your energy to a task and stay with it because your emotions are not getting in the way so much.

Emotional Acceptance Trumps Mindful Awareness

According to the article, ” the researchers asked participants about their experience meditating, and gave tests that measured how mindful they were of the present moment, and also how aware and accepting they were of their emotions.

The researchers then hooked up participants to an electroencephalograph and gave them something called the Stroop test. In the test, participants are shown the name of a color written in letters of a different color – for instance, the word “red” spelled in green letters. Participants are asked to say the colour of the letters. The test requires them to suppress the tendency to read the word, and instead to concentrate on actual colors.

Meditators were generally better than non-meditators at the test… Looking further, the researchers found that the best performers were those who scored highest on emotional acceptance, and that mindful awareness – the more cognitive aspect of mindfulness ­– had less to do with success on the test. ”

Implications For Highly Sensitive People

Being highly sensitive means being aware of emotions. You cannot escape them. Being in touch with your emotions can be overwhelming and you quickly discover that you cannot respond to each one.

Although you have to process your feelings and make the wisest action choices that you can make, if you see them as part of the flow of life it will be easier to do so.

Whether you meditate or not, over time the practice of processing feelings and making decisions can become a practice that helps you develop both wisdom and self-discipline.

That is quite a gift from the supposed problem of being highly sensitive.

5 Ways To Boost Your Self Esteem

Self esteem is not a hot and sexy topic. Not even close. I know people don’t love to talk about their self esteem in front of others. But I’m passionate about it.

Self esteem is defined as confidence in one’s own worth or abilities. Have you ever noticed how prevalent low self esteem is among the highly sensitive population? I have. I have also grown to understand there is a lot we can do to change that. Once we become comfortable in our skin, our self esteem can soar.

You see, I have experienced both sides of this spectrum. I used to have low self esteem and all the accompanying characteristics. Then one day I began to ask myself…why. Why did I feel this way? This one question inspired over 10 years of studying low self esteem and strategies to increase it. It consistently remained a main goal for me to focus on over the years. My increased esteem has changed my life in ways I could have never imagined. People responded to it. Situations responded to it. Life responded to it. My relationships improved (or ended), my opportunities multiplied and my joy and inner peace grew.

Most people don’t typically think about self esteem. It’s not usually on their radar. But what a role it plays in our lives. We wear low self esteem on us like a garment that everybody can see. I think it’s time we pay attention to it. So let’s start now.

The 5 Quickest Ways To Recognize Your Worth

This does take a bit of practice, but once you implement these strategies, you will instantly begin to notice changes in your life.

  1. Accept thoughts, emotions, and sensations as they are. Do not judge them, they are neutral and do not define who we are. They rise up within us and can be released through the body and mind. They are fleeting in nature and can also be changed.
  2. Eliminate “should” from your vocabulary. “Should” comes from a place of judgement. Examine your beliefs, especially around your “shoulds.” Question them. What happens when you turn your “shoulds” into “could’s?” Does it open up other options or encourage less judgement?
  3. Do not rely on other people to give you your sense of worth. They will inevitably disappoint. We have to internalize our power and make ourselves the only wielder of it. No label, position, or relationship can give us worth. Those are external things. We have to ensure that if something or someone is removed from our lives, our esteem can remain intact.
  4. Forgive. We need to forgive ourselves for our past wrongdoings. Shame, regret, and guilt sabotage our self esteem and worth. We often find it easier to forgive others, but we must apply this compassion to ourselves as well.
  5. Take stock of your talents. Everybody has a gift or calling in this world. In fact, each of us have many different abilities that help others. We must identify these. If we are unsure of what these abilities are, start small. What small things are we good at? Enjoy? In what ways do we make other people’s life better? Celebrate these, they are the very things that make us feel worthy.

Implementing Self Esteem Strategies

These 5 strategies are simple, however, following them will take mindfulness and perseverance. I assure you, all the effort will be worth it when you start to live with inner calm and contentment on a daily basis. This new found self worth will show up in your relationships, career, and new opportunities and people that you will attract. Remember, like attracts like. A healthy and secure individual will attract other healthy and confident individuals.

A word of warning for those working on their self esteem. People in your life who have low self esteem will begin to take notice. They may become threatened and uncomfortable with your progress towards self acceptance. It is important that you don’t let this bring you down. Be mindful of people who are unsupportive or think you are becoming full of yourself. There is a big difference between arrogance and healthy self esteem. You can be a shining example to them by revealing what healthy self esteem looks like. They can see the positive effects it has in all areas of life. Remember, high self esteem means being comfortable with who we are, quirks and faults included. It recognizes our abilities and strengths, and knows the value and worth they provide in this world. It is very common to experience backlash from others when we make big strides in our personal growth, especially in co-dependent relationships. We must be prepared to cut loose the people that do not support us in our emotional growth. If it’s not appropriate to end the relationship, we can hold awareness of our personal issues versus theirs. Some people may in fact be supportive and encouraging, and use your growth as inspiration for their own. These are the people we want to keep close.

Embrace Respect: It’s Good For Your Health

Respect is something we all want. Even HSPs.

Why is it so elusive?

Why Respect Is Important

Respect is so important for our well-being that we feel our positive energy grow when around it and we feel our energy become depleted when we are disrespected. For highly sensitive people, the issue of being respected is particularly acute since we are frequently disrespected for our “soft” values and gentle, non-aggressive personalities. Whether we are accepted or not, we still need to experience respect – not just be someone that others put up with.

We all want to be well regarded by the people in our life and also to be able to look in the mirror and be happy with ourselves. Because the HSP nervous system is so easily stressed, we also need to be aware that disrespect damages our health and as a result our ability to function well. It creates emotional injury and more stress for us to deal with. On a long term basis, disrespect will make us ill.

Implications Of Respect

Respect has important benefits:

  • it helps us open to the world
  • it makes us open to listening to others
  • it helps create trust
  • it helps us have confidence in ourselves
  • it creates space for mutual problem solving
  • it creates a feeling of safety
  • it lets you receive
  • it lets you give
  • it helps you to relax
  • it helps to feel one with the universe
  • it helps you heal
  • it helps you forgive
  • it is necessary for love
  • it helps you feel happy
  • it helps you be present rather than want to escape the present
  • it helps you to be with whatever you are involved with so persistence becomes easier
  • it helps you feel less needy so you are more satisfied

Respect is so important that people spend their entire lives chasing it. In a competitive winner-take-all culture like ours, external respect can be very hard to come by, which is why we need to spend time considering the implications of respect in and on our lives.

Do we base it on our values, our performance, our possessions, our relationships? How do we manage respect issues when cultural values mean that external respect is unavailable to us? Can we respect ourselves and have that be enough?

Respect And Wisdom

One of the first lessons that Japanese children learn is the importance of respect. It is not taught to meet the demands of the social structure but because you need respect to learn and become wise. This means that in their culture respect is the beginning of the journey to wellbeing and effectiveness.

In the Western culture, respect is something you earn from others. So it is extrinsic and even rare.

Intrinsic respect or self-worth is something we get from our parents and educators during our childhoods. When we do not receive it we are less able to withstand the negative message of our culture. We may know intellectually that we have worth, but without the experience of it, we have left adrift.

When we lose access to intrinsic respect, we lose our ability to effectively navigate our daily lives. We lose our compass, our capacity for sane and responsible action, and our ability to manage. We have an insatiable hunger and often do not know what it is for.

HSPs are usually “misfits” so often our natural curiosity and wisdom may have been denied to get us not to bother others. We may have been denied respect for the bets f ourselves.  Being treated as a bother is tough to handle as a child, so we may stop believing in ourselves because no one else does. As a result, we may be afraid to learn because we do not receive positive feedback.

The Importance Of Respect For Learning

Respectfulness elevates learning because it puts us on the steward’s path.

In the West, educational goals are often about innovating which is great but there is a pitfall. If we treat current reality with disrespect in order to innovate, then we are essentially shooting ourselves in the foot. We are innovating by competing against and rejecting the present, rather that looking to make the present better. Without respecting the present we lose the ability to discern what is working and what is not. We may treat the present as something to discard, like consumer goods, like the packaging for a loaf of bread.

When disrespect as a basis of “progress” it creates serious issues within our culture.  Environmental degradation, health issues, and social problems are all caused by a disrespect for nature, people and their well being.

HSPs And Respect

None of us can live with disrespect all of the time. It is like dying slowly. For HSPs the situation is more serious than for non-HSPs since we are more likely to be affected by the stress of the inherent rejection in being disrespected. The good news for HSPs is that our natures are very supportive of respectful living even if our culture is not. We have to come to terms with the implications of our nature and what respectful living means for us so that we can forge a path that we want to embrace.

I suspect that we HSPs are here to help our race find its way to a stewards path, a path of respectfulness that has been denied in the interest of economic gain. Embracing respect and the steward’s path is not easy, but it is also essential for our well-being and the well-being of everyone around us.

Everyone benefits in the end.

Why Responsibility Is Not Enough

Have you ever noticed how the word responsibility gets thrown around a lot? Does it seem strange that in spite of that we have so many pressing problems in our world?

I think it is worth asking why that is.

Responsibility Is Not Stewardship

When we talk about responsibility we are usually referring to tasks:

  • you are responsible for certain tasks in your work.
  • you are responsible for your share of the work at home
  • you are responsible for your health
  • you are responsible for how you treat others.

Notice that all of these responsibilities have a predominantly task oriented short-term focus.

A short term focus is not intrinsically problematic unless that is all that is going on. What is interesting is that this kind of responsibility is very compartmentalized. Therefore it is very difficult to get a big picture perspective and we live with a kind of short-term tunnel vision. When people do not have perspective, they are usually reacting to their circumstances with all of  the negative implications that go with being reactive.

This short term responsibility structure doesn’t just apply to individuals. When individuals who operate this way create groups and organizations, they often create similar structures, institutions and cultures. When the word responsibility is used there is often an implied expectation that we support the status quo – the economic and cultural system that we live in and currently we have a short-term oriented one.

Supporting one’s culture can work some of the time; however, all cultural ecologies have a life cycle. When the system is not longer working and devolving, supporting it may be counterproductive and even self-destructive. It can also mean living in a state of continual crisis.

Why Responsibility Is Not Enough

When we focus on short term responsibilities we may think that we are doing the right thing, and in some ways we are. However there is a considerable downside:

  • we may organize ourselves around taking care of the latest issue or emergency
  • we may spend time being consumed by the emergencies of others.
  • we may chose easier activities which are faster to complete over activities that require more skill and sustained attention.
  • we are likely to ignore longer term maintenance tasks until they become the next emergency.
  • we become short-sighted and neglect important parts of life in favor of survival strategies

Good intentions can get us in a lot of trouble by making it difficult to set priorities in a way that supports us in a long-term and sustainable way.

Crises can take over our lives and prevent us from engaging in any sort of growth and development. We may think that we are doing the right thing by rising to the occasion when a problem presents itself for attention, and actually be shooting ourselves in the foot if we make this process a way of life. In fact, it can feel like we are digging our own grave.

We instinctively known when our way of life is not serving us. If that way of life is the norm, stepping outside of it to make new choices, can be difficult and require a lot of courage.

How Stewardship Helps

Stewardship is a different way of thinking about life. It brings short term and long term considerations together. It is an approach to living that lets us take care of life necessities and maintenance requirements and still have time for personal development. There is no conflict between the two.

Stewardship lets us see beyond current circumstances. It enlarges our responsibility to include our talents and the sustainability of the planet. Stewardship sees beyond the status quo in an ever changing world. Stewardship sees our environment as creating the conditions for our living experience. Our environment is therefore very important and critical to our well being, it is not just there to be consumed and exploited.

At a personal level, stewardship lets us pace ourselves. We can take the time to grow. We can take the time to take care of ourselves. We can align with the larger challenges of our time, do our part and not have the world on our shoulders. We are one of many stewards.

Stewardship is living in the spirit of friendship. It is HSP friendly. It is friendly to all people, in fact. and I think it is what we sorely need right now.