A return to self-worth

Finding a place under the sun, Love, Self-development, self-love
Painting by Lucian Soit

This year let’s forget about new year resolutions. Without a healthy sense of self-worth, we will procrastinate and let opportunities slip by. We will seek, attract or be attracted to unhealthy relationships, professional challenges that do not match our abilities and so on. Our decisions will be influenced by whether we believe we are valuable, deserve respect and good things.

We believe we are seeking happiness in love, but what we are really after is familiarity. We are looking to re-create, within our adult relationships, the very feelings we knew so well in childhood and which were rarely limited to just tenderness and care. “ Alain de Botton, Course of Love

If our sense of familiarity identifies with situations where we were criticised or emotionally abused, how can we lead a life where we are worthy? We will seek, attract or be attracted to situations where we are not whole, where we will be end up being criticised. We will not show up authentically in relationships and when we are loved, we will doubt whether it is for who we are or because we created a fake persona who is lovable, but is not us. We will be subject to a cognitive bias where we attract situations that confirm that we are not lovable.

Equally, people who do not have a healthy sense of self-worth might experience what is called the impostor syndrome: they don’t believe they deserve to be loved and might end up locking up their partner in a cage out of jealousy so that he/she doesn’t see what they see.

When we start seeing our worth, we will find it harder to be around people who don’t. We will not put up with nasty behaviour, beg for love, linger in situations where we receive less than we deserve, etc.

We also need to reconnect with our essence of human beings, and not human doings: our self-worth is there for us regardless of our ability or external achievements.

Self-esteem is like walking down the street like you own it. Self-worth is walking down the street and not caring who owns it.” John Niland, Self-Worth Safari 

John Niland encourages us to move away from this obsessive need for and almost addiction to external validation, to prove ourselves, that causes so much anxiety about not fulfilling our full potential. Instead, we should believe in our self-worth before others do and put ourselves to the service of others and the world instead of linger in self-preoccupation.

What does self-worth look like? People who feel worthy display a mix of the following:

  • can take a compliment full heartedly and believe it’s true;
  • not just confident, but generally kind to others;
  • gentle self talk, with self-awareness and acceptance  of strengths and weaknesses;
  • high standards reinforced by boundaries;
  • integrity;
  • generally feel loved and have more loving relationships;
  • better collaborators and team players and leaders because not overly obsessed with proving themselves or jealous of others but rather valuing themselves;
  • take self-loving decisions to take care of themselves;
  • recover quicker from setbacks;
  • more creative and entrepreneur because not so self-censored or afraid of failing;
  • awareness of the impermanence of things like the sky who knows that both the clouds and rainbows will pass.

How to boost self-worth?

  • say kind things to yourself in the mirror;
  • cultivate positive affirmations like I am enough. I deserve to be enjoyed fully, in all that I am. 
  • treat yourself like a good friend;
  • list strengths and achievements;
  • change your posture, do affirming and powerful moves, embody self-worth – your body affects your mind more than you think;
  • take action, it will help no matter the result;
  • give yourself a pat on the back for your effort, the things you did well and your learnings than focus only on the outcome;
  • look at everything as an opportunity for growth, and at any failures as a First Attempt In Learning;
  • set boundaries so that you do not feel that other people are running all over you;
  • meditate to a soothing song to calm the mind;
  • enjoy your uniqueness and drop comparison;
  • be grateful for who you are and who you will grow to be;
  • journal or write a letter of self-love;
  • befriend your saboteur, those inner voices that criticise you;
  • replace ‘must’ and ‘should’ with ‘could’;
  • invest and try to thrive in several areas of your life that can help you counterbalance in case one fails, like a relationship or a job;
  • use your strengths as often as you can and see how you can be useful to others and the world;
  • focus on what truly matters when determining someone’s worth: how you treat others, your kindness, compassion, empathy, respect for others, and not your money, appearance, job or status;
  • get to know yourself better, learn what you stand for and live more according to your values;
  • be less preoccupied with self and more oriented externally as how to contribute to the world, be more interested than interesting;
  • acknowledge that you have the power to influence what happens in your life with every decision;
  • reparent yourself: regardless of your childhood and any absent or over-demanding parents, you still deserve the best and you can offer yourself all the unconditional love and care that maybe you didn’t get.

“I am the creator of my life not the manager of my circumstances.” Tony Robbins

What self-care/positive affirmations do you need to hear this year to support your self-worth? You can draw a charter of self-worth, like the one we did during a soul café with my online community Connection Weavers. What other tricks have worked for you?

How to recognise and end emotional abuse

Love, Self-development, self-love

M never thought it would happen to her, being someone rather firm, rational, independent, who has read quite a bit of psychology. But real life is so different from theory, especially when you are emotionally involved – or somewhat insecure. Emotional abuse is all about gaining control over a situation or a person. It leaves mental scars, not physical, so it is harder to spot. So how did M fall for it?

Her partner B was very charismatic, charming and sweet. He had a way with words, very polite and knew how to get people to do what he wanted. They had a lot of things in common and good chemistry. He was very thoughtful and catered to her needs, quick to hold out a helping hand or surprise her with something she hadn’t even asked for. He showed her what a homely life of sharing could look like, indulging in the small pleasures and rituals of daily life, which she somehow was oblivious of since she was always on the move. Before she knew it, she was hooked. And so was he. This proved to be a bad thing, because his demands increased and things got worse.

At the beginning B had some light jealous remarks, but M was flattered and didn’t think much of it. We need to stop being attracted to jealousy as a sign of love. Love is not possession and seeks what’s good for you regardless of your company. B was also passive aggressive, making rather hurtful remarks but in a joking, sarcastic way, so M didn’t take them to heart. Sometimes his reactions were weird, like giving her the silent treatment: removing his presence to punish her, to make her wonder and doubt herself. B would block her on social media rather than be open to talk about it if M did something that upset him or if she reproached him something. M was too happy about regaining contact to reflect that this behaviour was not ok. Other flirty behaviours with other women jumped at her as inappropriate, but each time she was gaslighted: making her doubt reality and subscribe to his.

M had not realised that actually she was spending all her time with him and this was why things were good. The first serious scene he made was when she went for a walk with her girl friends and two boyfriends happened to be there. Suddenly she was a woman who needed male attention all the time – in his eyes. According to him, M should not be in the presence of other men if he was not around. What??? This would have been a good time to set a boundary, but M was already attached and didn’t want to lose him. Instead, M started justifying herself and the situation. There was absolutely nothing to justify in this case. A man who is not happy where he is in life and doesn’t have enough confidence will feel like an impostor in his relationship, like he doesn’t deserve what he has. He will be so scared of being disclosed and paranoid, that he will isolate his partner from family and friends so that she doesn’t realise that her partner is an impostor. Equally, fear of abandonment can make someone extremely doubtful and jealous.

Yet, a long chain of justifications followed and inevitably, lies and omissions, to prove that she was a good girl and to maintain peace in their relationship. B seemed determined to prove her the contrary, as he did not trust women in general. Making the other person feel guilty or ashamed is a very smooth controlling and manipulation technique. Someone who loves you will trust you and think you are a good person by default, you will not have to prove it. They will empathise with your hardships, accept your choices and your past and forgive your mistakes. They will be curious about your past to find the best way to show you love, not to punish you for it. No one is entitled to judge you and your past because they weren’t there to see your struggles. M had none of this, no empathy, accusations got worse and worse, as her lies multiplied.

Her rich past, full of travel and adventure, was a threat and surely a collection of wordly pleasures to him. He devalued her achievements and soon the insults followed. He started comparing her to one of his exes to make her even more insecure and not good enough, only to find out that he also mistreated and threatened her the same way. Since M also had not abided by some ideals of purity she herself had when she was younger, and since there were things she also regretted about her past, M easily gave in to his interpretations and ideas about her life. When you have a strong sense of self and values, you can easily see when these are not respected and you can find the strength to stand up for them.

All this diminished her confidence and self-esteem to the point that she no longer knew who she was and forgot that she did not want to live her life by B’s rules. He made her feel like a bad person if she did not do what he wanted or if she did not conform to his ideal of purity, while he himself wasn’t pure at all. Her lies made him constantly doubt her and occasionally push her boundaries: M would get questioned about her past that was none of his business to catch her off guard and he demanded answers when she was not ready.

He subtly tried to isolate her from her friends and passions and all men, why do you need them when you have me? They met at a social event but suddenly attending these events was dirty and shameful. A relationship is never about possessing someone fully, capturing their whole time and interests. It’s about sharing what we have in common, moments, and supporting each other’s growth, wherever that takes place.

It became more and more obvious that B did not take any responsibility for his experience or his actions. All women had lied to him and he was a victim. M sympathised and wanted to show him that there was hope – and ironically, she ended up lying too. The smallest reproach would cause an angry reaction. If he was hurt due to his interpretation of things, he would hurt back on purpose, immaturely. Emotional abusers twist things around and blame you for it. Slowly, you start caring for their needs and ignoring yours. You should not be in a relationship with someone who has a bad perception over the opposite sex: sooner or later they will include you in this category and treat you accordingly. Any baggage should be fixed before entering a new relationship. We should stop romanticising men who pose as victims of other women. We should stop blaming the other woman, but rather empathise with her: what could he have done that she behaved like that? Is this the truth or his interpretation?

Just as he wasn’t owning his experience, he couldn’t handle his own feelings, with bursts of rage. What M did not know is that she shouldn’t have engaged emotionally when someone is wound up, and communicate this clearly as a sign of self-respect. Instead, M lost control over her anger as well.

Why was she still there then? Couldn’t she see what was happening? It’s called trauma bonding. You get hooked on a chemical rollercoaster of dopamine and serotonin between a moment of love bonding and abuse. The passion felt at the beginning in the seduction phase is so strong that you want to relive it. Your brain is so wired to this cocktail of chemicals that this is the only way it can imagine love, often due to some kind of emotional abuse in childhood.

M was also overwhelmed by guilt and shame for lying and omitting things, things she would have never even had to hide or talk about in the first place in a normal relationship, like hanging out with a gay friend. M thought B was the most honest person ever who had been wronged by all women, her included, so she was trying to save him and prove him otherwise. He blamed her for his abusive behaviour, so M got to think that if only she behaved well, he would be back to his sweet self. Supposedly M was the liar, but later found out a bunch of things B lied about or twisted. Someone who is pathologically jealous will always find a reason to doubt his partner and cause a scandal, sooner or later. His partner cannot cure him by behaving well. He needs specialised help.

B was so sweet and attentive to her needs most of the times, that she couldn’t see that he was disregarding and not validating her other needs and feelings – and her identity altogether. In a healthy relationship, your partner should hold space and validate your feelings whether they agree with them or not. Emotional abusers were probably never validated growing up and they learned this behaviour. Most likely they have abused their previous partners as well and they need specialised help to stop.

What have you done in the name of love to preserve it? M lied and gave up herself. Got so dragged in an identity that she didn’t want and wasn’t hers due to the demands that were made to her. The question should really be what should you not be willing to do for love? To forget about yourself and your needs.

This experience taught her to return to the I, to the awareness that she deserves to be respected and enjoyed fully, to her values like fairness, equality and freedom, to setting boundaries.

We teach people how to treat us. By tolerating a certain inappropriate behaviour, the abuse will just get worse and worse: from here to physical violence it’s just a step. It is not our job to change, fix or save anyone. They are fully responsible for their experience and have to manage their emotions.

If you know someone who is going through emotional abuse, help them see the signs by telling them what a healthy relationship looks like, as described in this article. Help them stop blaming themselves but instead build self-love and self-worth. Tell them to take time and focus on who they are outside the relationship and what they need from the other person. Encourage them to write a third person narrative about their situation so that they realise how unfair what is happening to them is. Be gentle and patient: what seems so obvious from the outside is not so visible to the one emotionally involved and they might relapse several times before they break loose. Sometimes therapy is needed, especially if there was abuse in their younger years: we somehow end up reliving traumatic experiences just to give ourselves the opportunity to give a different response.

Call it narcissistic pervert, pathological jealousy, manipulator – regardless the label, the only way to escape emotional abuse fully is to break all contact.

If you find my blog useful and would like to show your appreciation or support the free events I run on my online connection community Connection Weavers, you can make a donation here.

Family connection game for the holidays

Love, Self-development

Winter holidays bring families together, presumably in cheer and laughter. Actually, each family is different. Some get together with open hearts and smiley faces, others gather around the rich table in gossipy and criticising conversations, big hugs, wrapped presents, others doze on the couch in front of the TV, boozing around, silent and broken togetherness, children playing under the table, little Tom never comes home for Christmas anymore, virtual chatter. Why not give the gift of deeper connection this holiday season and relate authentically, whether virtually or in person?

On my flight home for Christmas when I was high up in the air I got this idea so I created a short connection game to play with family. You can customise it to your situation, group size, type of relationship and so on. It’s a DIY game you can create at home by mixing and matching the suggestions or coming up with your own. As with games in general, there are points, rules, dice, winners, jokers, gameboards. What is special about this game is that it helps you have meaningful and heartwarming conversations and confessions in a light and fun way about things that matter, but that you still rarely or never bring up. Deeper connection is created around eight pillars: memories, gratitude for each other, compliments, dreams /regrets, common past and beliefs, togetherness, silly challenges and humble requests. The various questions and challenges create an atmosphere of vulnerability, togetherness, nostalgia, but also celebration and appreciation of each other and your past.

The game is explained in the two frames of this jamboard, one with examples of questions and tasks for the eight pillars and the other one with the rules. Does some of it sound like stuff your family would never do or say? I know, mine neither. But I’m feeling brave this Christmas. So should you.

If you would like to help enrich this game, do leave a comment. If you get a chance to play it with your family, we’d love to hear from you.

To stay up-to-date with other authentic relating events hosted by Connection Weavers or if you would like to host one with us, you can like or follow the page.

If you find my blog useful and would like to show your appreciation or support the free events I run for Connection Weavers, you can make a donation here.

Japanese secrets for a long and happy life


Ikigai: finding that thing that is at the same time what you love doing, what you are good at, what the world needs and what you can get paid for – your raison d’être. Russell Brand was saying that we shouldn’t want happiness, but purpose as purpose will take us all sorts of places. Happiness is a byproduct of purposeful action, of spiritual action, and of service.

Wabi-sabi: appreciate the beauty of imperfection as an opportunity for growth and accept the ephemeral character of life.

Ichi-go ichi-e: reminds us to live in the present.

Consume liquids or foods with anti-oxidants like green tea.

Hara hachi bu: eat til you’re 80% full.

Keep moving and breathe: daily low-intensity movement.

Ichariba chode and yuimaaru: treat everyone like a brother, even if you’ve never met them before, and help each other like a team. Living with an open heart goes a long way.

Too angry? Time for some boundaries

Finding a place under the sun, Self-development, self-love

We often feel ashamed of our anger. But have you ever thought of anger as a force that drives us forward by making us reconnect with our needs and self-love, as a force for change? If our needs are not met over a longer period of time, anger builds up, and our self esteem and confidence drop.

This certainly happened to me with a criticising boss, over-controlling sibling, rude flatmate or certain friends who did not miss the chance to belittle or embarrass me. Then my work mate spoke about setting healthy boundaries in my relationships as a way to regain control over my life. Setting boundaries will make us feel more empowered, more in control of our lives. It will also make others respect us more as someone who stands tall and is not a pushover.

Poet Robert Frost once wrote that good fences make good neighbors.
Likewise, good boundaries make good connections, preventing empathetic

What are boundaries?

Boundaries are rules that you set for your relationships to honour your needs and acknowledge that your needs matter: how people in your life treat you and how you respond when someone breaks those rules. The earlier you set them by speaking up, the better you will feel. We train people how to treat us and this happens by accepting a certain type of behaviour.

They say you cannot trust people who cannot say no because they are people pleasers and you never know where they stand.

We tend to think of boundaries as something external, but we can also internalise them by putting limits as to what we choose to do, who to do it with and so on in order to stay true to ourselves, our values and greater purpose.

How do you set boundaries?

Setting boundaries follows the non-violent communication principles: not attacking the other’s personality, but referring strictly to objective facts, our feelings triggered by the situation, what we want changed, and set consequences you are ready to follow through. Stating your boundaries also takes a good amount of vulnerability: discussing with the other person and openly acknowledging that their behaviour hurts you. Boundaries don’t necessarily have to mean drawing a line that separates us from the others, but rather lines that set a common space in which we walk together. The way we walk can be negotiated by both parties. Setting a boundary is like pulling the alarm that ça ne va pas or not ok and adding the now what. Start by thinking in what areas you need boundaries, what situations made you feel bad, how that behaviour made you feel, why it is important to have a boundary, what do you want changed and what consequences are you ready to follow through.

You are completely entitled to surround yourself with souls who make you feel good, loved and supported, and leave out the bullies, the criticisers, the energy vampires, those whose values do not coincide with yours and so on. It’s your life and you can equally choose what sort of activities you want to engage in. This does not mean being an inflexible prick, just having a strong sense of self and what you stand for. Boundaries are not to be confused with ultimatums or blackmail. They come from a place of self-love and respect for your needs, not from a wish to control others or create a blaming game where you pose as the victim. You are wired for self-love, so find your boundaries, no matter what. Do not waste your energy on hating the other, but analyse what the need for a boundary has to say to you about yourself. If others think you are overreacting, do not forget you are also entitled to be as sensitive as you are – just surround yourself with like-minded people who see in your sensitivity a gift and not an anomaly and who respect your needs.

Equally, setting a boundary does not mean that we need to close our heart in anger or resentment. If we pause for a moment and try to see that behind nasty behaviour there is someone hurt whose needs are not met, we can set boundaries but still keep our heart open in compassion. Tara Brach has designed a process called RAIN to embody compassion towards ourselves and others: Recognise, Allow, Investigate and Nourish.

Fear of rejection—another core reason why we are afraid of setting boundaries.

One of the most frequent reasons that prevent us from setting boundaries is fear of rejection. What if there was no such thing as rejection, just a mere redirection toward where we are meant to be? When we show up authentically and someone does not like it, we know this is not good fit for us and we shouldn’t waste our time or energy on that front, but rather create space for more aligned connections to come in.

You should not feel guilty for showing you some love and looking after yourself. What boundaries do you need to set? or what boundaries have you set and how have they benefited your overall well-being?

Boost your mood

Finding a place under the sun, Self-development

Boost your mood (2)

You already know by now that I am not a big fan of getting on the happiness treadmill, chasing one pleasure after another and never feeling satisfied because we get used to it through hedonic adaptation. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that I believe melancholy and pessimism do play an important role in our lives. However, in these trying times, it’s good to know how to boost our mood and build resilience – and make sure we do it in a good amount.

Here are some tips I’ve collected from various talks, the Yale course The Science of well-being and my own experience.Some of these you may already know, but sometimes we all need a reminder.

  • Focus on what you can control or change and accept the rest: in each situation, there are some parts where we can intervene and others that lie beyond our control. For example, we are not sure how long the restrictions or teleworking will last due to coronavirus, but we can create a healthy daily routine or make plans for local travel. Equally, it is important to always have a sense of agency and set boundaries in your life and relationships early on so you feel you are respected and in control. Otherwise, frustration will build up in time.
  • Practice visualisation: picture your future in a positive light and try to describe it in as much detail as possible. What will you be doing in your post-COVID life? Try to see how you would feel by being in that ideal situation. Martin Seligman thinks we make an error when we believe that we are pushed by our past instead of being pulled by our future, so how we imagine that our lives will be. Find goals and things to look forward to.
  • Nurture social connection and belonging: countless studies have shown that we need other people and it is our relationships which determine how long we live and how satisfied we are with our lives. We are a social animal, after all, Aristotle was right. We need to develop a sense of belonging, of a safe space where we can find security, which gives us enough strength to move mountains. If you are close to your family, stay in touch, even virtually. Make time for your friends, show vulnerability, relate beyond weather conversations or analysis of external events. How do you feel? What do you need? New connections, if authentic, can be just as powerful: try it for yourself during the connection meet-ups I organise on Connection Weavers. I find cuddling cute animals also helps 🙂
  • Cultivate a growth mindset and self-compassion: I am both a masterpiece and a work in progress. If I need to work on something more, that’s ok, I am not there yet. Life is about learning and trying several times. Learning new things and getting better and better at it builds excitement and self-confidence.
  • Feel the fear and do it anyway: this is also closely linked to having a growth mindset, but one where you constantly not only grow, but challenge your fears. There is immense pride when you have managed to overcome something that has been holding you back for years, and equally there is immense defeat when you never leave your comfort zone. Often we regret most what we haven’t done than the things we did. We need to strike the right balance between moments of comfort and security and those of experimentation.
  • Value your present and create meaning: it helps to place your life in the greatest scheme of things and think how you are contributing to the greater good by what you are doing, who cherishes your presence or relies on you, what is your greater purpose and how things in your life have all worked together to get you nearer to it. Equally, negative visualisation also makes us realise our contribution to the lives of others by imagining what things would be like without us – or without someone. Dr Michael Steger from the University of Colorado believes we create meaning in three ways: by feeling our life is good and worthwhile, by transcendence – that we contribute to something, and by understanding our life or having a coherent life story.
  • Practice gratitude: what are you thankful for, including small things like sunshine. You could keep a journal, have a gratitude board, tree or a jar. On the days you are running dry and feeling low, you could take out one piece of paper to remind yourself that life is beautiful. Equally powerful, if not even more, is writing a gratitude letter to someone and then paying them a gratitude visit, where you express your feelings.
  • Acknowledge privilege: closely linked to the previous point, think of how your life would have been if you didn’t have what you already have. I recently read more about white privilege and realised everything I was taking for granted by being white and that other ethnicities do not benefit from like me. And avoid comparing your situation with others. We are all different.
  • Savour moments: by being in the present, sharing them, focusing on physical sensations. To enhance the intensity, imagine this is the last day you have something. Get lost in routines, just be.
  • Practice acts of kindness: and think of them occasionally, like helping out a friend who is moving or buying something to eat for the homeless person you pass by every day.
  • Invest in experiences than material purchases: learn a new skill, try out a new hobby than just buy a dress. It will make you so much happier and keep your brain switched on.
  • Concretely re-experience the past: how it was before you got what you wanted, how bad you wanted what you currently have. Also replay happy memories.
  • Interrupt good times: studies show that our happiness levels increase if we stop a pleasant event mid-through than if we just keep it going until the end uninterruptedly. Similarly if we take breaks.
  • Catch your negative thoughts: say stop when you catch yourself thinking something negative, when your saboteurs come in, and replace them with positive affirmations about yourself, supported by examples of situations. Choose to be happy – not much to gain from being negative, just extra wrinkles, as my friend Julie would say.
  • Use your character strengths: everyone enjoys when they get a sense that they are good at what they are doing and appreciated. Your job could turn into a calling the more signature strengths you use. To see which ones you have, take the free VIA survey on character strengths.
  • Practise time affluence: prioritise what is important for you and get it done so that you feel you are not rushing through life but have time to do what you love, but also have enough time for dolce far niente (doing absolutely nothing at all).
  • Choose jobs where you can achieve flow: where you do not feel like you are working and time passes unnoticed.
  • Meditate: also to control mind wandering which occurs about 47% of the time according to research. Many meditation apps or free guided meditations out there. Meditation in nature in complete silence does wonders.
  • Exercise and reconnect with nature: at least 30 minutes a day. It also improves brain function. I’ve cycled more during lockdown than during my whole life. Long forest walks and dancing also recharge my batteries.
  • Get enough sleep: gives you a cognitive boost and lets your learning sink in.

Mix and match these techniques to keep in good spirits. How do you boost your mood?

How to build authentic connections

Finding a place under the sun, Love, Self-development

Authentic relating

Do you remember that warm bubbly feeling after you’ve had a nice long chat with someone and you felt you connected in so many dimensions? The time spent left you all energised and feeling like you can do anything. It’s when you are seen and enjoyed in your fullness – just like when you were little and your only care was to just be.

When you live in a big city as an expat like me, away from family and old friends, it is easy to become invisible, feel slightly alienated and crave for that kind of connection again. This is why I am launching Connection Weavers, a series of virtual and physical encounters where we can discover different ways of interaction and get to know ourselves better. Join me and get ready to be surprised!

Ryel Kostano, founder of Authentic Relating Training, has identified five principles that improve our connections and lead to conscious relationships.

  1. Welcome everything: slow down, be present, notice and be aware of it all, inside and outside ourselves, good and bad, making sense or not. Welcome the full spectrum of your emotions, not just the positive ones, and everything that might come from an interaction, without a specific end in mind or attempt to control it. Basically come with an observant but open and serene mind. This does not mean agreeing with, approving or condoning everything. Neither does it mean focusing on things to change or fix, just bringing our attention to what already is. Trust that what is there is what it should be and how it should be.
  2. Assume nothing: assumptions get in the way of real connection and often cause misunderstanding and arguments, so it is important to discern where we are making them and have the courage and humility to check them with the other person: I don’t know if this is true, but I sense that you... Our assumptions reveal more about ourselves than the person in question and it takes some vulnerability to reveal them, as by doing so we reveal a part of ourselves. It can also make the other person feel seen.
  3. Reveal your experience: acknowledge how you perceive things and how you are feeling and then share this with other, who you are with all your façades, dare to be seen and known. Vulnerability and authenticity feed connection. We all had one too many conversations about the weather and crave to talk about what really matters to us. Sometimes even expressing what stage you are in, what you are ready to share or not, can help the relationship be more fluid. Put things in context or set an intention when sharing difficult information like I want to share this with you because I cherish our friendship.
  4. Own your experience: analyse your part in the experience that you are having, be the source of your experience. Reclaim the power you give to others or external factors to make you feel in a certain way. Take responsibility for the experience you are having and for how you show up in a relation. Otherwise, we put too much pressure on the external world to change to fit our expectations.
  5. Honour self and other: know your values, needs, wants, boundaries and preferences and those of others and live according to them. Treat others how they would like to be treated, not how you would like to be treated if you were them, by having the curiosity to find out what that is. What is it like being you right now? What is this [feeling] like? Conscious relationships try to maximise the overlap between our values, needs, wants and preferences and those of others.

These principles are all backed by self-awareness and knowledge, authenticity, vulnerability, communication, honesty, empathy, respect, trust, forgiveness, presence and curiosity towards the other. And a lot of love – for oneself and others. The consciousness you bring to a relationship will shape it, so if you feel unworthy of love you will be unsecure, closed and might even push the others away. I also feel that assuming the best (of intentions) in people transforms relationships as well by making us less defensive and more trusting and open.

What else helps you relate authentically to others?

If you find my blog useful and would like to show your appreciation or support the free events I run on my online connection community Connection Weavers, you can make a donation here.

Core desired feelings for life vision

Finding a place under the sun, Love, Self-development

Core Desired Feelings

We are all used to compiling to do lists, new year resolutions, goals and five-year life plans. I cannot lie that ‘where do you see yourself in five years’ is my most dreaded job interview question. Most recently I discovered a new perspective to go about visualising our lives: how do we want to feel in the future and then thinking about what do we need to do/ have/think to get there? Author Danielle Laporte calls this drawing a desire map according to our core desired feelings (CDFs). CDFs are our most preferred states of being that pull us towards our highest self and gratitude and make us feel peaceful, energised and grounded. They are life-affirming, positive and expansive. Instead of paralysing like to do lists, CDFs are inviting.

Our core desired feelings reveal themselves when we are connected with our emotions and sensitivity. How to do this is not always obvious, especially if we are used to suppressing our vulnerability to keep going. I for one often founded harder to activate my heart mechanism and was sometimes perceived as cold. To connect with our feelings, we could relive moments when we felt a certain way or imagine situations that would trigger our fears and vulnerabilities. This could also be done through a heart opening meditation where we start by breathing deeply in our heart centre, after which we ask ourselves how we are feeling, but as an observer not as a judge, then move to compassion by saying something gentle to ourselves, and to gratitude by remembering what we are thankful for; the next step is to invite the core desire feeling into our heart, visualise the colours it brings along or sense its perfume, and listen to what it has to say to us: an affirmation, a positive thought or an action that reflects that CDF. If we want to go even deeper, we can describe our CDF as a character in our play: what are its essential qualities? what does it like to do?

Identifying our CDFs should be liberating instead of placing us in a position of dependence of exterior factors or a do mode. For example, sense the difference between having as CDFs love instead of loved or loving. If your CDF is love you could be both receiving and giving love, but also embodying it rather than being in a mindset of I need someone to love me or I need to do or give to be more loving.

I enjoyed the idea of heart-centered living: weighing our success not in terms of quantifying indicators like money, house size, grades etc but in terms of how often we get to live our CDFs.

Here are my CDFs: love/belonging, expansive/growth/continuous learning, purpose/contributing/fulfillment, fun/adventure. What are yours?

Your daily questions

Finding a place under the sun, Self-development

We all want to get so much done. And feel good about ourselves and our lives. But often we give in to the pressures of the day and forget what is important to us. What if I told you there was a simple way where you have full control, which can help you keep on track and live according to your values and your priorities in a more conscious way? By bringing this to your awareness in a repeated practice, you will also be inclined to take decisions more in line with what matters to you. I said simple, not easy.

I recently discovered coach Marshall Goldsmith’s daily questions. Basically, it’s a powerful tool where you can compile a (check)list of questions in Excel that you can answer on a daily basis with a Yes (1) or No (0) for each day of the week. These should cover what is extremely important to you, from personal life, career, values, hungers (or personal realisation needs) to working towards a long-term goal or monitoring your mood. The list shouldn’t be too long or the task will soon feel burdensome, or too general or vague. At the same time, if it is important for you to feel useful, loved or accepted, you should cater to that need before it becomes too poignant. You could draw this list according to your situation, but here are a few examples to get you started:

  • have I showed my partner that I love him/her?
  • have I spent at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted time with my children?
  • have I been kind or contributed to someone’s happiness or well-being?
  • have I learned something new today?
  • have I reached out to someone important in my life?
  • was this a good day?
  • have I worked on my [insert long-term goal] in any way?
  • have I been kind to myself or taken care of myself?

To keep your daily list shorter, you could also have a weekly list or a monthly list, with things that are easy to remember even later or where you do not need them to happen daily, like: have I exercised twice a week? have I gone out of my comfort zone this month? have I done anything that excites me? anything that makes me feel proud of myself? have I met someone that inspires me or could contribute to my growth?

I know, we all hate Excel spreadsheets outside work, but they have cool functionalities where you can sum values, create rules and highlight automatically the instances where what you are doing is not according to your standards or goals. You can sum up the 1s or 0s and decide thresholds on a weekly or monthly basis. The list can also be kept in a notebook and can be part of your morning or evening routine. You could also add more detail and then it can act as a mini-diary.

This is your list and it should include whatever serves you. You should organise it in such a way that you can make an enjoyable practice out of it that you can easily squeeze in your day. If you are not a big fan of numbers or math, you could also add some questions for ongoing reflection. Here are some suggestions from a friend of mine: What can I, and only I, do, and if done well, can make a real difference? What is the most valuable use of my time right now?

What would you ask yourself on a regular basis? Curious if you’ve tried doing this and what you thought of it.

Happiness saboteurs

Finding a place under the sun, Self-development

When it comes to our general happiness, our genes and life circumstances don’t matter as much as we think they do. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, the percentage breakdown of the factors is 50% genetic setpoint, 10% life circumstances and 40% our intentional actions and thoughts. This means that a big portion of our happiness is still under our control. Cognitive behavioural psychology and positive psychology have made great progress in identifying and reversing negative thought patterns by replacing them with positive actions, thoughts and habits.

Stanford lecturer and coach Shirzad Chamine described ten saboteurs that make us forget our true self, limit our potential and prevent us from being happy. These saboteurs are often anchored in childhood experiences of not being seen, not being enough, not being loved unconditionally, or of discomfort, chaos and unpredictability that the now adult is trying to escape, control or make up for.

  • the Judge: constantly criticises self, circumstances and others, master saboteur that activates the other saboteurs.
  • the Controller: tries to bring situations and people to one’s will and feels frustrated when not possible, willful, direct and confrontational.
  • the Stickler: believes in closely following rules or doing things in a certain way, keeping a very high standard, being perfect, and often highly critical of self and others.
  • the Victim: unconsciusly attached to having difficulties, tries to get attention and affection, sometimes experiencing depression, apathy and constant fatigue due to repressed rage, sulks if criticised, feels lonely.
  • the Hyper-Achiever: dependent on constant performance and achievement for self-respect, self-love and self-validation.
  • the Restless: always keeps busy and in search of greater excitement for fear of missing out (bingo!), rarely content in the present.
  • the Hyper-Vigilant: notices and exaggerates the negative, always anxious, with chronic doubts about self and others.
  • the Pleaser: desperately tries to be accepted and liked by helping, pleasing, rescuing, or flattering others, difficulty expressing own needs which come second and thus becomes resentful.
  • the Hyper-Rational: mind over feelings, can be perceived as cold, distant, and intellectually arrogant, tries to regain a sense of security through rational order.
  • the Avoider: postpones unpleasant and difficult tasks and ignores conflicts, suppressed anger and resentment, difficulty saying no.

These saboteurs were formed in our early childhood and were meant to help us survive the real and imagined threats to our physical and emotional safety. Curious which one is more proeminent in your life? Take this free saboteurs assessment.

I might dare to add that on top of these saboteurs, we’ve all been engrained some general beliefs about life that we carry with us subconsciously and poison our current becoming and decision-making. It could be small things like Men are not to be trusted because they will eventually cheat. Women are supposed to be beautiful. Marriage is just a form of domestic exploitation.

Here are some quick tricks to catch these saboteurs red-handed and fight them. Keeping up this habit to keep your saboteurs in check will build your mental fitness:

  • Distance yourself from your thoughts by writing them down, labelling the Sabouteurs behind them, even giving them funny names to loosen their power and then replacing these thoughts with a more gentle, emphatic and realistic thought. Sometimes focusing on a physical sensation for 10 seconds also helps unplug the negative thought pattern enough to replace it. Replacement affirmations can be accompanied by evidence e.g. My annoying Judge saboteur thinks I am a loser. Thank you for sharing but I am reclaiming my life to be more in tune with my true nature. I know better than this because I have many accomplishments in my life, like I have a safe job where I am valued and a loving family. You can go now. Once you have escaped their power and you have more time, have a think where this saboteur is coming from, what or who in your life might have created it.
  • Set boundaries and favour thoughts that favour your growth: I remember when I confessed to a friend that I wasn’t feeling very optimistic lately and she said something very simple that stuck with me: you have nothing to gain from being pessimistic. That simple! So when a negative thought comes, just say Thanks for you opinion, Thought, but you don’t serve me. Bye!
  • Regard everything as an opportunity: this is what Shirzad calls getting in contact with your Sage, but it can also be called having a growth mindset. It’s ok not to master this skill from the beginning, but I can perfect it in time. What am I learning from this failure? What other skill do I get to practice?
  • Emotional release: do not ignore the fact that these saboteurs have been with you for a long time and have generated a lot of emotions which are now stored in the body. To free from their power, try meditation or practices like Osho’s pillow beating meditation where you just take out all your anger on your pillow.
  • Drop comparison: accept and love your uniqueness. Life is not a race, but an individual journey of discovery. What is it that you want and why do you really want it?
  • Whatever comes, you got this. Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert believes we suffer from an impact bias, namely that both positive and negative events have a much smaller impact in terms of intensity and duration than expected. We are more resilient than we think we are and that we can even synthetise happiness when we don’t necessarily get what we what. So why not risk it and apply for that job you always wanted, ask out that person you like, pursue that passion that you think you are not good enough for? You will regret not trying more than trying and failing. Regret lasts longer than fear.
  • Pat on the back: reward yourself for the small wins in your life, acknowledge when you’ve done a great job and celebrate.
  • Reaffirming your self-worth: I am enough, regardless of what I possess, my job title, my looks etc. Your body posture also affects your mind.
  • Assume good intentions and good will in people: feeling like everyone is after to get you or doesn’t like you will only make you defensive, distant, untrusting.
  • Befriend and tame your Saboteur: sometimes even your Saboteur wants the best for you and tries to protect you, but is so clumsy that it does not know how to express it kindly. Try to see how you two might be wanting the same thing and tell it how it can serve you better, what kind of language you would respond to easier. Your Saboteur can thus become your Ally.
  • Give yourself and others a break: everyone is doing the best they can based on their own painful past and conditioning. It’s only human to make mistakes and it’s ok not to be perfect. Be an instrument of love to others and a source of support and encouragement, not a judge, unsollicited advisor or someone who always wants to be right.
  • Accept and reconnect with feelings: if we aren’t aware of our feelings and letting them flow, we cannot accept the feelings of others either.
  • Give yourself time to savour the present, with its perfumes, light and warmth. It’s ok to be where you are, nowhere else you should be.
  • Start your day with the most difficult and less pleasant tasks. Once out of the way, reward yourself for taking responsibility to take your life forward and get things done.
  • Indulge in and welcome the unknown, which can be full of nice surprises and a source of great creativity. What would life be if everything was predictable and under your control and everything done according to your way? Boring, right? Tony Robbins says that the quality of your life is directly linked to the amount of uncertainty you can handle. Think about it: do you dare to take challenges and grow or just swim in the same waters?

Would love to hear what (other) techniques have worked for you.

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