Your Zesty Self

New perspectives on freeing yourself from shame and building self-esteem.

Are You The Boss of You? Really?

What authority do you claim for yourself?


"Your own conviction is the only authority you need," said Rev. Michael Beckwith in an inspiring sermon Sunday morning. What a powerful concept, a freeing concept. I had that expansive and liberated feeling again as I reverberated with the idea.

Then I thought about the many talented, brilliant, hard working and goodhearted clients I've worked with who could not initially access their own convictions. Why couldn't they? Because their awareness was so filled with other people's convictions ringing in their ears.

Sometimes treading the Path of One's Convictions first finds us in the Valley of Shaming Internal Voices. That's the place of the shaming internal voices that confuse, scorn and inhibit us from recognizing our most precious core convictions.

For an example, I'll start with a personal one. My first job after graduating from college was teaching high school. I loved it. And I was also shamed by the fact that I was a high school teacher, and worse, I loved teaching.

So why was I ashamed? Because I was too unaware to separate my own beliefs and convictions from those I had been "taught."

My mother, a debutante and a brilliant woman, placed enormous importance on not doing or being anything "common." She had taught me, and I had, on some level, believed the judgment that "Those who cannot do, teach." So if I taught biology it meant that I was a failed marine biologist, if I taught English literature, I was a failed writer, etc.

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Coming to realize that I loved teaching, knowing that I was making an important contribution in the lives of many of my students, and recognizing my own conviction about the value of teaching for me--which was so different from her conviction, was an important struggle. It helped the growth of my internal Harvester whose job it is to separate the wheat (my own voice) from the chaff (shaming voices of others), to distinguish what is useful or valuable and discard what is useless or even depriving.

A client I'll call "Joanne" demonstrates a beautiful example of separating shaming internal voices from authentic convictions of the Real Self.


Joanne says, "I am so happy about how I have changed. I don't succumb to the voice in my head that says, whenever I think about starting my business, ‘Who do you think you are.' I now see that the voice is my mother's--NOT MINE. I even see her expressionless face as she says it. I can also hear my father's kinder, but still suppressive voice, ‘You're getting a little bit too big for your britches.'


"Before, I would get panicky when I heard those voices. I thought that I was the one thinking those thoughts- and I believed them. When something GOOD happened, I used to get panicky. I used to think- or again- hear the voice that would say, ‘Something bad is going to happen now!' Then I would freak out.


"Once I recognized that voice and could see it was not really ME, I could ask it, ‘What makes you say that?' Or ‘What do you think is going to happen? Death, famine? What?' The voice was then stumped and I could see that it didn't really know about something awful about to happen. it was not an omniscient being. It didn't even make any sense. What a relief. I feel so grateful."


Now I can hear it when one of them says, ‘You need to go sit in the corner now.' I was panicking then because I knew on some level that I was being abandoned when I was excited and hopeful and feeling powerful. And I was being asked to not be who I was. I was also panicking recently because I soooo much want to start my business, and I know now that when I sit in a corner metaphorically, I am killing my spirit. But now that I know those voices are not ME I know that I can just notice them and go on doing what I think is right.

"Wow. I feel so real and I feel so much power. I don't think I'm crazy anymore for what I want. I can go for it!"


Recognizing and separating from those shaming and self-diminishing inner voices makes so much possible for us. I wish that for everyone!

 

Jane Bolton, Psy.D., M.F.T., is a supervising and training analyst and adjunct professor at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles.

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