Wednesday’s Weekly Inspiration: It is only a mistake if you don’t learn something from it.

Human beings make mistakes.

Yes, that means you too.

We all make mistakes. What separates success from failure in recovery and life has nothing to do with the amount of mistakes you make and everything to do with what you learn from each mistake.

So today, when you make a mistake (and you most likely will), instead of berating yourself, ask yourself, “Self, what can I learn from this?” You can even journal about it and set aside a few minutes tonight to read back through all the knowledge you have gained in one single day!

And here’s one more radical idea – just if you are feeling really brave – how about choosing to THANK each mistake for the lesson it brings! You can say, “Thank you, mistake, for being such a good teacher. I appreciate the chance to learn and grow that you have offered me.”

Today’s affirmation: Making mistakes means I am brave enough to learn something new, and I celebrate myself for that!

Your “Say Yes to Life” Monday Motivator: Loving Yourself Unconditionally – If Not Now, Then When, Part III

I hope you have enjoyed Parts I and II of this special three-part Monday Motivator series on practicing unconditional self-love. In Part I we explored the differences between conditional and unconditional love. In Part II, we examined how love becomes conditional, how regular doses of conditional love affect us in the short- and long-term, and how practicing conditional self-love limits us.

Here, in Part III, we conclude our exploration by coming full-circle back to answer the questions we asked at the start of the series – What does “loving yourself” mean? How do you know you are doing it? How do you know you are not doing it? And what do you do if it doesn’t feel okay to love yourself, and you often catch yourself wondering “if I can’t love myself, now, today, then when? When will I finally be able to look in my own eyes and see someone worth loving looking back at me?”

The answer to all of these seemingly complicated questions boils down to one simple word: when you begin to practice it.

Learning to Love Ourselves Unconditionally 101

When we want to learn a new skill, there is no getting around it – we need to practice. Practice may never equal perfect (regardless of what our parents or teachers may have told us), but practice is guaranteed to equal progress, and that is what we are working towards here. Furthermore, once you experience for yourself just how good unconditional self-love feels, you will find it easier to make time to practice this invaluable skill until it becomes as second-nature as practicing conditional self-love used to feel.

There are several techniques we can use to practice unconditional self-love – so try each one, and select what works best for you. Again, you might also want to have a journal handy for recording your observations and experiences.

Exercise One: Learning to Identify the Critical Inner Voice

Before there can be application of a new skill, there must be awareness of what isn’t working for us to get us the desired results. So with this first exercise, we will begin to take notice of how, where, when, and why our critical inner voice speaks to us. Here, we will not be attempting to analyze the messages for insights, but simply noticing them with the intention to distinguish them from other messages we may hear within.

So start by keeping a log of what the inner critical voice is saying to you. When you hear messages delivered by the voice, write them down. If you are having trouble recognizing which voice is the inner critic, pay close attention for statements that include words or phrases like “should, how could you, you are bad/stupid/etc.”

Exercise Two: Learning to Listen to Ourselves

We give the critical inner voice plenty of airtime. But how much airtime do we devote to listening to our own authentic voice? With this exercise, you are learning to consider another perspective – your own. Here, you will practice listening to your own thoughts until you can clearly tell the difference between the inner critical voice and your own inner voice.

If you are having trouble distinguishing between the voices, a great technique to try is to ask yourself, “If I wasn’t afraid or knew I couldn’t fail, what would I do?” Practice asking yourself this question, and then jot down your responses. What you are seeking to identify here are your hopes, dreams, and desires apart from the messages your inner critical voice may give you about whether you deserve to or can achieve any of those hopes, dreams, and desires.

Exercise Three: Learning to Appreciate Each Voice for the Gifts They Bring

It is easy to react negatively to hearing criticism, especially when the critical voice comes from within.  But consider this – whether it sounds like it or not, each voice you hear within was at one time your invited guest. Each has a message for you – each one wants to help.

This is why learning to hear the message that lies beneath the tone of the messenger is so essential to healing, growth, and relationship-building. Practicing unconditional self-love begins with developing an awareness of how each message is trying to help you. Developing an attitude of curiosity and detachment can be very helpful during this phase as well.

For instance, when you hear the voice that compares you to someone else, choose to recognize it as a part and listen to it with curiosity. Why is the part doing this?  What is it afraid of?  What does this part truly want for you? For each message you hear, pretend you are the voice itself as you journal your thoughts about the answer to each of these questions.

Exercise Four: Learning to Give Yourself the Loving Care You Want and Deserve

Being able to hear, name, and decipher each messenger and its message lays the foundation for the most important skill of all – showing yourself that you love you!

To do this, start by journaling out a list of all the statements, activities, gifts, and experiences that make you feel truly loved. If it helps, you might imagine you are someone else, and ask yourself interview-style what you would really want and need to feel wholly loved, and then jot down your own answers.

You might also benefit from what I like to call “The Mirror Exercise.” Pick a time each day when you will have a few moments to yourself – it might be as you are getting ready for work or school each morning, or at the end of a long day just before bed. Whatever time works for you, make sure you can have a few minutes alone with yourself to look into your own eyes in the mirror as you tell yourself “I love you unconditionally…no matter what.”

This is not a time to evaluate whether you are having a good hair day, or whether those jeans really go with that shirt. This is a time to connect with YOU – eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart.

Again, if you find this extremely uncomfortable, it might help at first to ease into it by imagining you are looking into the face of someone you do feel unconditional, unwavering love for. It can even help to do it with pets at first because pets accept our love fully and without hesitation!

Work your way into being able to gaze into your own eyes and offer yourself total, unwavering, unconditional love. You can also use the mirror to offer your love and appreciation to other areas of your body about which, in the past, you may have felt shame or discomfort. Bring a sense of love and appreciation into your contemplations, and remember that you may have to “fake it til you make it”, but if you are persistent over time, your practice will turn into progress, and you will begin to feel just how wonderful it is to love yourself unconditionally.

How Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy Can Help

At Southlake Counseling, we know that it is one thing to decide to practice unconditional self-love…and quite another thing to actually do it! It can be scary, sometimes painful, often disconcerting to try to stop ourselves in our tracks and change long-standing ways we have been relating to ourselves, others, and our own lives. Here is where Internal Family Systems Therapy, a Southlake Counseling specialty, can help.

IFS Therapy is a uniquely effective approach to restoring loving relationships with self and valued others. Students of IFS learn to identify patterns of internal dialogue that create conflict and interfere with their ability to pursue healthy, productive change. IFS is a powerful vehicle for restoring your sense of self through promoting self-curiosity, self-compassion, and self-confidence. Southlake Counseling professionals have many years of training and experiencing in guiding students who wish to experience the full benefits of this powerful therapeutic practice.

Call us today at 704-896-7776 or email me at Kkrueger@centerforselfdisocovery.com to learn more about how IFS Therapy can help you say NO to conditional love and YES to life!

Be Well,

Kimberly

Why Can’t I Ever Be Good Enough?

Do you often find yourself thinking you are not smart enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough, not strong enough, not talented enough, not loving enough, not disciplined enough, not brave enough, not generous enough…fill-in-the-blanks NOT ENOUGH.

 “Not enough” often begins as a simple quest to be a better you. At first it feels normal, natural, reasonable even. You want to excel, to achieve, to do your best.

But somewhere along the way, the “enough” line in the sand gets moved, and before long you are routinely holding yourself to standards you would never dream of imposing on those around you. You wake up each morning, and instead of jumping out of bed feeling inspired and excited, you are battling waves of exhaustion and fear before the day has even begun. And even when success comes your way, you cannot allow yourself to enjoy it, because you are always bracing yourself against the next wave of self-disappointment.

Before long it feels like your life is one long hopeless lunge towards the carrot you no longer believe you have any right or ability to catch.

 How does this happen?  How could our good intentions to be our best get so twisted and tangled?

The foundation is often laid in our early years, long before our brains possess the abstract reasoning abilities to separate out the negative messages swirling around us from our internal assessments of those messages’ validity. When those around us experience shame, assign blame, externalize anger, or otherwise involve us in their own power struggles with themselves, we come away thinking their emotions, feelings, and thoughts are our own.  They feel inadequate…we are the inadequate one. They struggle with poor body image….we perceive ourselves as “fat” or “ugly.”  They have a bad day at work….it is our fault for not being “good” enough.

In short, we do not learn well where they end and we begin.

So what is the solution?  The simplest answer is found when we examine what happens when someone throws a boomerang in our direction. When we catch it, we send the sender – and ourselves – the message that whatever it brings to us is ours. But what happens if we don’t choose to catch it? When we refuse to reach out and catch a boomerang, it has no other choice but to return back to its sender, and we are freed from the burden of a battle that is not our own.

I used to catch the boomerang every time. I took in each message the world around me threw me that I was not enough as I was, that I needed to prove myself to earn my place, that I needed to change my outsides before my insides would be acceptable, that all my worth was tied up in my accomplishments. When “good” things would happen, I would experience a momentary high, only to be laid so low again when the tide inevitably turned. “Not enough” became my middle name…and in time it was the only name I recognized as my own.

When I entered my own process of recovery, I heard over and over again that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again expecting different results.” Slowly but surely, I learned how to catch myself when I was about to step onto the hamster wheel of “not enough” once again, and I learned that I could back away and head off in a new direction instead…a direction that felt more self-affirming, more self-loving, and more interested in the quality of the journey rather than in arriving at any specific destination.

Since then, I have dedicated my life to the pursuit of unconditional self-love and self-acceptance. I have realized over the years that it simply feels better to be my own friend, to stand on my own side. I have also realized that when I feel better about me, it becomes easier to allow myself to succeed, because my definition of success has changed accordingly.

When I view myself as “enough”, regardless of what a single day’s events may bring, I allow myself to celebrate even my foibles and fears as the teachers they are, and I hold up hope high in front of my own eyes as the carrot I have already attained.

An Experiential Example: Go Ahead, Compare Yourself

When you read the phrase above, you probably caught yourself saying, “What? Compare myself? But I’ve been told comparing myself to others is the root of all my problems!”

My answer to this is, “It depends on what you focus on.” For instance, what normally happens when we compare ourselves to others is that we think we are comparing apples to apples as we are focusing on specific areas where we believe we don’t measure up.

However, we rarely spend any time examining our standards for comparison. Are they realistic? Can the subject of our comparison even meet those standards – in other words, are they even attainable?

So let’s take a simple example to illustrate the point. You might want to have your journal handy for this exercise.

For part one of the exercise, think of someone whom you believe embodies your “physical ideal” – the person you most wish you looked like. Now compare your own physical measurements to that person. Spend a few moments dwelling on the differences you perceive between you and the target of your comparison. Notice your inner state, your thoughts and the emotions you are experiencing as you ponder those perceived differences. How do you feel? How willing are you to actually “go for it” and reach for your own stars while you are experiencing these types of thoughts and emotions? Jot down some notes in your journal.

Next, make a list of all the achievements you are proud of, from early childhood to the present day. Be sure to list out every accomplishment you can recall – big or small. Now, compare your list to that of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at age twelve. Consider as you are reviewing your own list of accomplishments to date that, by that time Mozart was twelve years old, he already spoke fifteen languages and had composed numerous major pieces of music, including an opera. Again, spend a few moments dwelling on the differences between your list and Mozart’s list of accomplishments. Notice your inner state, your thoughts and the emotions you are experiencing as you ponder those perceived differences. Ask yourself how willing you are to actually “go for it” and reach for your own stars while you are experiencing these types of thoughts and emotions. How do you feel? Jot down any notes in your journal.

The first time I did this exercise, I felt predictably miserable by the time I reached this point. I was also wondering what the heck the purpose of the exercise was – I was perfectly capable of making myself miserable without any extra help, thank you very much!

And that is precisely the point. Let’s just say you have believed for quite some time that, if only your outer appearance looked different, or if only your list of accomplishments were longer, you would feel so much better and be so much happier, more successful, and more accepted.

Yet you are wasting so much perfectly valuable energy that is gridlocked in just getting you through a day bogged down by impossible comparisons – energy you could be pouring into your work, your family life, your relationships, and your relationship with YOU. You think the comparisons will help you feel better, do better, be better.

But they are the obstacle – the only obstacle – in your path.

So the question then becomes, “When does it make sense to let those comparisons go, in the name of actually experiencing that happiness, joy, success, satisfaction, body- and self-love they have been promising to deliver to you one day, some day, when you finally measure up?”

And the answer is, “NOW.”

Letting go of “not enough” can feel daunting when you are facing down the challenge alone. But help is available. At Southlake Counseling, we know firsthand how painful it feels to live in a constant state of self-disappointment. We understand how powerful “not enough” can be as a negative motivator. Most importantly, we know that it is possible to break free into “enough” – to learn to love ourselves, our bodies, our relationships, our lives, and ourselves, right where we are, as we are.

If you want to say NO to “not enough” and say YES to life, contact us today at 704.896.7776 or Kkrueger@centerforselfdisocovery.com  We look forward to meeting you and celebrating the day you look “not enough” straight in the eyes and say “never again!”

Be well,

Kimberly

p.s. Stay tuned for next week’s Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator for more on this important topic.



Your “Say Yes to Life” Monday Motivator: Loving Yourself Unconditionally – If Not Now, Then When, Part II

What does “loving yourself” mean? How do you know you are doing it? How do you know you are not doing it? And what do you do if it doesn’t feel okay to love yourself, and you often catch yourself wondering “if I can’t love myself, now, today, then when? When will I finally be able to look in my own eyes and see someone worth loving looking back at me?”

In last week’s Monday Motivator, we started our journey toward finding answers to these tough but critical questions by exploring the definition of love and how to distinguish between conditional and unconditional love.

 As we continue with part two of our three-part series on unconditional self-love this week, we will look at how love becomes conditional, how regular doses of conditional love affect us in the short- and long-term, and how practicing conditional self-love limits us.

 How Love Becomes Conditional

Parents love their children. This is a controversial assertion, but children do not come with a manual, and parents do not bring a baby into the world feeling fully equipped to handle the unknowns of raising a child, so mistakes are bound to happen. Sometimes those mistakes are small, and sometimes those mistakes are very big, and the mistakes that are made almost always relate back to where there is lack, ignorance, and pain in the parents’ own lives, rather than out of a conscious intent to hurt, scar, wound, or otherwise impact the child’s ability to grow up happy, healthy, and whole.

Conditional love first begins to show its face when criticism is attached to who we are, rather than to what we have done. Think back to a time in your life when you first heard the words “You’ve been bad” or “You’re a bad girl/boy”. Now think about what you were doing when your parents, caregivers, or teachers said this to you. Chances are, you were drawing on the walls, watching cartoons outside of your allotted television-watching hours, sneaking a cookie, or even hiding your report card. What was actually being addressed when you were labeled “bad” for what you were doing was your action in the moment, not your being over the continuum of time.

Yet this criticism tends to begin taking place when our brains are still in the developmental stage where things are perceived as “all bad” or “all good” – we have not yet developed abstract reasoning abilities to separate out the white from the black or develop our awareness of the grey in between. We do not yet understand that the possibility exists that we could be good in our being, while being bad in our actions….or, in other words, that our parents or teachers could love who we are even when they don’t particularly like what we do.

 How Conditional Love Becomes Our Identity

The trouble with this style of parenting and instructing is of the “pass it on” variety – it is a learned behavior that is passed from parent-to-child, teacher-to-student, and on and on. The real impact conditional love has on us, however, comes because it is introduced at a time in our lives when our brains have not yet learned to think in “grey.” Over time, repeated exposure to similar harsh words of conditional love become internalized as a part of our innate worth or lack thereof. This is why, as adolescents and adults, we do not even stop to question ourselves when we start to self-motivate (and later to motivate our own children) using the same techniques our parents, teachers, and caregivers first used on us.

Do you wonder if you do this? To find out, think back to a time – recently or in the past – when you scolded yourself by saying “Look how stupid you are – how could you have done that!” or “If only s/he would ask me out/give me the job/give me an ‘A,’ then I would know I am worth loving.”

How Conditional Love Limits Us

If you can think of an example to the contemplation above, then you already know how limiting conditional self-love can be, and you know how impossible it feels to practice the Golden Rule to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

 The Golden Rule essentially states that what we wish to receive from others we must first learn to give to ourselves.

But how do we do this? Stay tuned next week for some practical exercises that can give you a direct experience of how powerful the skill of unconditional self-love can be.

 How Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy Can Help

At Southlake Counseling, we have experienced how painful conditional love can be. We know it is difficult to do or be our best when who we are and how we perform feels inextricably linked. And this is where IFS Therapy can help.

IFS Therapy is a uniquely effective approach to restoring loving relationships with self and valued others. Clients  of IFS learn to identify patterns of internal dialogue that create conflict and interfere with their ability to pursue healthy, productive change. IFS is a powerful vehicle for restoring  your  sense of self through promoting self-curiosity, self-compassion, and self-confidence. Southlake Counseling professionals have many years of training and experiencing in guiding students who wish to experience the full benefits of this powerful therapeutic practice.

Call us today at 704-896-7776 or email me at Kkrueger@centerforselfdisocovery.com to learn more about how IFS Therapy can help you say NO to conditional love and YES to life!

 Be Well,

 Kimberly

What is IFS?

The Internal Family Systems (IFS) model of therapy has been developed over the past two decades by Richard Schwartz and is based on the concept of self-leadership as the ideal. IFS relies on a client’s own intuitive wisdom and therefore offers a safe, nonpathological, and empowering approach to psychotherapy. Schwartz believes that any client can benefit from the techniques used in IFS therapy, but that it is particularly helpful for the client who has been humiliated and feels worthless, or for those who have suffered loss or been devastated by trauma.

The basic premise of IFS is that internally, an individual is constantly listening to many different voices and is engaged in various thought patterns and emotions, which are similar to complex external relationships he may have with other people. When a person believes himself to be “thinking,” he is often having an inner dialogue with one or more of his parts. As people develop, their parts develop and form a complex system of interactions among themselves, and the functioning of this internal system can be examined using the systems theory. The IFS model posits that each individual is composed of many internal parts, and that the Self is the true core of each individual. The Self is not only viewed as separate from the other parts, but the goal of IFS is to for the Self to be recognized and respected as the leader of the other parts. Schwartz uses a board room analogy to illustrate the ideal role of the Self at the head of the table and in the position of chairman, with the parts in the chairs around the table. The parts are all respected and important in their roles, but the chairman (Self) does not give up his seat at the head of the table to any of them.

IFS also contains spiritual components in reference to the Self as being similar to the soul of a human being. Schwartz promotes that all individuals have at their core a true Self that innately possesses qualities such as curiosity, compassion, calmness, confidence, courage, clarity, creativity, and connectedness – natural leadership qualities. As individuals go through life and experience various events which their system perceives as traumatic, or other extreme emotional consequences, their true Selves become obscured by these new emotions and beliefs, which become their parts. IFS assumes that the intention of each part is something positive for the individual, such as protection or motivation, therefore there are no “bad” parts. The goal of IFS therapy is not to eliminate the parts, but to help them find less extreme roles. The goal for the individual is to be able to separate his true Self from the parts, view the parts with compassion and curiosity, and regain his innate sense of calmness, confidence and clarity.

The parts in the IFS model of therapy are those separate internal characteristics of an individual that are not qualities of his true Self. They could be emotions or beliefs such as anger, fear, shame, or distrust, which have been programmed into a person by external events or messages, and they all have a reason for being there or an ingrained role to play. For instance, if a girl grows up in an abusive environment, she may eventually come to believe that she is worthless and is not deserving of being treated with kindness and acceptance. Through IFS therapy, her worthless part can be separated from her true Self and be seen as only a part of her. Then perhaps her true Self can be curious about how the worthless part came to be, what it is telling her, and how she can develop compassion for it. In this way, her true Self can come to acknowledge and respect the worthless part, and either unburden it of its feelings of worthlessness based on the abuse she suffered, or give it a more helpful role to play in protecting her. Schwartz believes that after an individual’s true Self becomes curious about one of his parts and begins to acknowledge and respect it, he can begin to have compassion for its purpose in his internal world.

One of the most important aspects of the IFS model of therapy is the safety of its use with the client, and the safety the client feels in referring to any undesirable emotion or characteristic as only a part of him. In IFS parts sessions, the client is in control of which parts to address and to what depth, so the therapeutic process is safely client-driven. Likewise, most clients are more accepting of referring to an undesirable trait as only part of them, and not their true Self. For instance, the woman who was abused as a child may be more comfortable saying, “Part of me is still very angry at the person who hurt me when I was a little girl,” rather than, “I am still very angry at this person.” The difference is that while it is healthy to acknowledge the anger and hurt, it may be liberating to accept that the adult woman is not obligated to carry it around with her and allow it to affect every aspect of her life if it is only a part of her, and not her true Self.

Debbie Parrott, MSW, P-LCSW

Southlake Counseling


Say, “Yes” to Life!

Providing inspiration, motivation, and encouragement for doing the hard work of recovery so that you can “Say ‘Yes’ to Life!”

Hello! My name is Kimberly Krueger, MSW, LCSW. I am the Founder/Director of the Southlake Center in Davidson, NC.

I am excited about sharing my experience, strength, hope, and expertise with you through my new “Say Yes to Life” Blog.

I have nearly two decades of experience helping people who struggle with eating disorders, body image disturbance, self injury, trauma, substance abuse, interpersonal relationship challenges, depression and anxiety. Beyond that, I know what it feels like to struggle from the inside out, because I have been in  recovery from an eating disorder, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem – for almost 20 years!

I do this work because I can see past the temporary struggle to the whole, healthy, vibrantly ALIVE human being underneath. I see you – and I know that just as I overcame my own battles, YOU CAN TOO.

This is why I have made it my life’s work to use my professional expertise and personal story to help and inspire as many people as possible who want to learn to say a firm and decisive NO to disordered thoughts and coping behaviors…and say YES to life!

I will look forward to hearing from you as we explore all of the ways you can say YES to recovery, to hope, to help, and to your own life. My colleagues will be blogging along with me on complementary topics – all in an effort to provide you with a comprehensive source of recovery, health, and wellness information!

As we go along, please feel welcome to share your comments, ideas, requests, and suggestions here, and let me know how I can support and encourage you.

Be Well.

Kimberly