Self-appreciating is More Than Just Not Beating Yourself Bloody With a Very Big Stick

Part Two of Becoming Your Own White Knight (previous post)

As part of my goal to learn new things about myself and others this year, I’ve been watching a lot of films online, reading blogs, and finding new research and authors to study.  I like it.  It feels fresh.  The moment I fool myself into thinking I know it all is the moment I should quit teaching.

Exploring over a cup of java.

The first great prize I’ve gotten so far this year I wrote about in my earlier post, “The Courage to Risk Loving.”  The second is this.  I struggle with self-appreciation or self-confidence.  It feels like no matter how much I do it is “never enough” or “not good enough.”  In some ways, a pattern like this is a good thing—it keeps me on the edge of my seat or always reaching, always moving.  And in some ways, it is just plain exhausting and self-depleting.  There is so seldom a moment of self-appreciation.

Self-appreciation.

Some of my understanding around this has come out of the radio program Milt has been producing on The Iron Range of Northern MN.  I’ve been helping with structure, script, and narration.  I also grew up on the range.  Milt interviewed a lot of rangers and one of the things he noticed is that they (like me) were given the message to “not get to big for your britches.”  What a funny phrase, but I can actually hear (in my head) my dad saying it whenever one of us kids would talk back or get too mouthy.

So, I have been trying to resolve the uncomfortable paradox of being a writer and presenter (and an introvert) who must self-promote—with the early and strong message to “not get too big.”  The conflict is obvious.

Finally, I get to my new discovery about myself and, perhaps, a way to resolve it.  I realized that I have done hundreds of sessions with clients that I described in Part 1 of this post—traveling back in time to help them stay their age while remaking painful memories.

What if, I thought, I did the same strategy only this time my adult self would travel back in time to appreciate the many things my younger selves did to add to who I am today.

I don’t know if you can fully appreciate how foolish I feel in not seeing this blind spot earlier.  If I was on FB I would probably have to write OMG or WTF.

So, I tried it.  Because our brain-wiring is designed to flash up painful memories in full color with sound, closeness, etc. (lest we forget), I found it much harder to bring up the old movies of the younger me doing brave and courageous things.  I had to probe to find them, and they certainly didn’t flash forward in 3D the way a trauma or humiliation event does.

But they are there.  Last night as I lay in bed, my mind was whirring with all of the many things that the younger me did to make me who I am today.  I played them out as little movies (like I do in the change history technique) only this time the adult me was standing beside her saying, “Well done, my girl.”  Here are just a few that flitted through my mind between midnight and sleep.

She was such a hungry reader.  She read walking to school, under the covers, behind the couch, over her breakfast cereal.  Even being scolded and told to, “get your nose out of that book” did not stop her.

Well done, my girl.

She cared about people—even in elementary school.  She stood up for people who were being teased or bullied even if it meant the herd would turn on her.

Well done, my girl.

And then there was that flute solo thing.  She tried.  She really did give it her very best shot.

Well done, my girl.

There were so many memories.  I fell asleep appreciating a shy, brave girl who helped others, who practiced writing beautiful letters in her penmanship, who learned to skate like the wind, who loved learning, who managed a difficult move in the 9th grade, who put us through college pushing drinks in a cocktail lounge.

Well done, my girl.

In all of the years of journaling—massive amounts of journaling—how is it that none of those pages ever explored what she has done right?  I dedicated so many pages to the sadness, the anger, the wrong choices and paths—and none to a girl who has done things with strength and courage, done them because they were the right thing to do.

I am so sorry, my girl.

In this moment, I’m a bit in awe of all she has done.  I honestly don’t think I have ever stood in awe of myself.  Ever.  This may be the most important lesson for me in this new year—to practice simple self-appreciation.

I don’t think that I am in danger of getting too big for my britches.  There is a pretty deep hole there, and it may take a while to fill it up.

So, two questions.  What parts of your personal history could you go back as the strong warrior woman or man that you are and help out some younger self?

And then what warrior feats have those younger parts of you done to bring you to this adult age?  Have you said thanks?  Try it.

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