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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom: The Main Reason People Cling to Self Doubt and Negative Self Images

Thought for the Day: As I promised, today's Words of Wisdom are part of a mini-series on cleaning out self doubts and negativity from the internal closets of your minds. On Monday, I introduced a client's dilemma and some ways to fight depression. Yesterday, I offered 4 specific tips to help stop negative thoughts and improve one's self image. Today's quote will address why it may be hard to follow the tips, even if you want to change and know the suggestions could help. Here's why it is so hard:
     "Paradoxically, the main reason people cling to self doubts and negative self images is fear of venturing outside their comfort zone."
You may be wondering, how can low self esteem be a comfort zone? I know it sounds counterintuitive but here's why...

Human beings are creatures of habit. Although we  like some variety in our lives, we tend to cling to routines. Habits give us a sense of control. We usually start and end our days around the same time. Meals and snacks follow a similar daily schedule. We tend to shop in stores where we have had success in the past. We like to know what quality To expect. We even like knowing the layout of the store so we know where to find things. Large chain stores take advantage of phenomenon by making all stores in their chain look and feel the same. By doing this, their brand becomes a comfort zone. Wherever you may be in the country, you will feel more comfortable going into one of their store than an unknown local shop. 

In our homes, we are also creatures of habit. We don't like too much change. Even when something has stopped being comfortable, we may have trouble giving it up.  

Recently a client told me a story that illustrates how hard it is to let go of some things. The client and his grown siblings wanted to surprise their parents with a very thoughtful gift. Although he and his siblings were all living on their own, their parents were still using an old dilapidated couch. It was ugly, uncomfortable and potentially dangerous for visiting grand children.
My client was both hurt and shocked when his parents did not want to accept the new furniture. In fact, although it has been years since the new sofa arrived in their living room, the old couch has not been discarded. It still sits somewhere in their parents' home, a symbol of an uncomfortable comfort zone. I don't know my client's parents but my guess is that their old sofa as worn and uncomfortable as it may be is their comfort zone. It may have been the perfect seating solution for a working class family with five children, even if it was poorly built, inexpensive and unattractive, it served their family well. 

Inaccurate, hurtful family myths and roles become comfort zones like that worn out couch. It is not surprising, therefore, that when adult children go home to visit, they often fall back into childhood patterns of behavior, even if they have outgrown them. You may have become a successful productive businessman, but act like a rebellious teenager when your father questions your judgement about a recent purchase or business decision you have made.  As uncomfortable as the ensuing argument may be, it may be a familiar  way of staying in that old "comfort zone." 

Leaving the outdated "comfort" zone of negative self images inside your head is even harder. Throwing out that  beat up couch or avoiding acting like a rebellious teenager in your thirties, forties or fifties with your elderly father may be easier than giving yourself a compliment. If you internalized and believed the negative self fulfilling prophesies that family myths and roles are made of during your formative years, they are hard to shed. 

I'm not writing about this to discourage you. To the contrary, I want you to know that although the tips may seem simple, implementing them will be extremely difficult. However, it is well worth the effort. It is both hard and exciting to venture outside a comfort zone. When you move into a new home or start a new job it is challenging until you can find things and develop new routines. With practice when you stop negative self talk and throw out ill fitting self images and replace them with more positive ones, you will learn how to live in a new more positive truly comfortable "comfort zone."

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