General

Surprising Ways that Shame Can Serve Us


We often hear about the destructive aspects of shame -- how it’s toxic to our happiness and well-being. As a psychotherapist, I continually see how shame holds people back. But can there be a healthy and helpful aspect to shame?

Shame is that painful sense that tells us we’re flawed and defective. Bret Lyon and Sheila Rubin, who lead popular workshops for helping professionals, describe shame as "a primary emotion and a freeze state, which has a profound effect on personal development and relationship success."

Believing that there is something inherently wrong with us, we're robbed of the capacity to feel good about ourselves, accept ourselves, and affirm our basic goodness, which has a crippling effect on our lives. Such shame may be so painful that we dissociate from it -- no longer even noticing it.
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Children and Teens

Why You Should Support Your Child’s Interests

My 11-year-old son Tommy collects stuffed bananas. You know, stuffed banana plush toys. He found his first one (and all of them, in fact) at the thrift store. This initial stuffed fruit was not just an ordinary banana, it was a stuffed Rastafarian banana complete with dreadlocks.

“What is this?” he asked.

“It’s a Rastafarian banana,” I said with glee.

Needless to say, Tommy had to have it. The price was right -- $3. We bought it and took it home.

This purchase brought on an extensive Internet research project on the Rastafarian religion.
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General

5 Quick Ways to Recognize Your Self-Worth

Self-esteem is not a hot and sexy topic. Not even close. I know people don’t love to talk about their self-esteem in front of others, but I’m passionate about it.

Self-esteem is defined as confidence in one’s own worth or abilities. Have you ever noticed how prevalent low self-esteem is among the general population? I have. I have also grown to understand there is a lot we can do to change that. Once we become comfortable in our skin, our self-esteem can soar.

I used to have low self-esteem and all the accompanying characteristics. Then one day I began to ask myself why. Why do I feel this way? This one question inspired more than 10 years of studying low self-esteem and strategies to increase it. It consistently remained a focus for me for more than a decade.

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Family

What to Do with a Cruel Inner Critic

Our inner critic might be loud and clear: I’m such an idiot! It’s always my fault. I can’t do anything right. What is wrong with me? I don’t deserve this happiness. I don’t deserve this success.

Or our inner critic might be more subtle -- and even unknown to us. Yet it still exerts its power, dictating the actions we take.

Each of us has an inner critic. Some inner critics are crueler than others. As we grow up, our self-worth and self-esteem derive their roots from our environment and surroundings. Our caregivers and anyone close to us has a big effect on both.
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Aging

Going Back to School Later in Life

This past September my mother, at age 70-something, returned to graduate school after a 40-year career in interior design.

Going back to school brought great joy to her life. She loved learning and being part of a collegiate community with its accompanying youthful energy and enthusiasm. But she also experienced high anxiety about grades, keeping up with the workload, reading small print with her failing eyesight, and getting to class in bad weather.

When I went back to school at age 39, I also remember feeling both excitement and fear. My mind raced with questions: will I be able to study and do well while maintaining my family responsibilities? Will I be the oldest in my class? Will I still have the focus to study after all these years? Will the classes be interesting? Is it worth the money that school costs? Will it lead to a better life? I had many hopes and dreams but also the fear of failure, dread of embarrassment, and anxiety about all the unknowns.

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Children and Teens

What to Do When You Feel Unmotivated in Your Career (And 3 Ways to Do Your Best Work)

We’ve all faced days at the office where we’re just not feeling motivated. Off days happen to everyone and it’s tough -- if not unrealistic -- to constantly do your best work. There are bound to be times when you procrastinate too much, lack focus, or struggle to start important projects.

You may react by getting down on yourself, wondering where your determination has gone. It can be disappointing to feel like you’re not living up to your aspirations, especially when there’s important work to be done, which there almost always is. Speed, efficiency, and productivity are what drive results, and when our energy doesn’t match our ambition, it can be frustrating.
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Personal

Learn How to Let Go of Shame and Forgive Yourself

"Stop beating yourself up. You are a work in progress; which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once." -- Unknown
I haven’t always been the woman I am today.

I used to be scared. Of everything. And everyone. Painfully shy and insecure, I saw myself as a victim of my circumstances, and was always waiting, on guard, for the next rejection. I masked my insecurity in a blanket of perfectionism, and worked hard to put forth the image that I had everything together and had it all figured out.

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Bullying

Why the Selfish People in Your Life Aren’t Going Away

"Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live." -- Oscar Wilde
Selfish people consume the time and energy of others and, despite what you tell yourself, there’s no end in sight to their narcissism.
“I’ll just do this last thing for her and then I’ll get back to my own affairs.”
“Maybe if I’m passive aggressive, he’ll take the hint that I have my own things to worry about.”
“She appreciates me in her own way…”
You can’t wait around for the day selfish people finally appreciate your time and show respect for your needs. It’s time to stop being manipulated and start focusing on yourself.
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Anxiety and Panic

What it’s Like to Live with Hypochondria

My life is controlled by an endless series of obsessions, intrusive thoughts, rituals, and fears, but I don’t have OCD, at least not technically. Instead, I have a somatoform disorder better known as hypochondria.

Hypochondria, or health anxiety, is a preoccupation with having or acquiring a serious illness. As with OCD, health anxiety can cause persistent fears and reassurance-seeking behaviors, like, say, checking and rechecking your pulse. For the hundredth time. In under 10 minutes.

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Children and Teens

Running in Place: Improving Public Education

Reading, writing, and 'rithmetic. In popular culture, we have a cheerful image of little Jim and Jane skipping to their suburban elementary school. Cute? Yes. Accurate? Only if Jim and Jane hail from upper-class backgrounds.

Compare Jim and Jane, two adorable first-graders from Coldwater Canyon, to Marcus and Mariel, two adorable first-graders from Los Angeles. For Marcus and Mariel, domestic violence, physical violence, and food insecurity pervade their daily lives. On Mariel’s walk to her gang-infested school, she dodges used needles and condoms. In their bleak environment, elementary school represents a critical, stabilizing influence.

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Bipolar

Dealing with the Pressure to Succeed When You Have a Mental Illness

I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but I feel a constant need to succeed, and there are definite moments when I feel desperately overwhelmed with the amount of pressure I’ve put on myself.

For years I’ve had the goal of living in a mountain house surrounded by a large grove of trees. I’ve worked hard to try to get to that point, but here I am, still on Section 8, still receiving money from the government for my disability.

I’m frustrated and, at times, angry with myself for not being able to mentally do what I have to do to get to the point where I’m satisfied.
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