Friday Questions for Self-Reflection

  1. What do you want that you don’t have? What benefit will it give you to have this?
  2. Do you feel like you deserve things? Do you only deserve them if you rest or are productive?
  3. What is the purpose in your life?
  4. What do you deserve?

Take some time to reflect on the above questions. Was anything triggered?

Self-Compassion and Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is not the same as arrogance, or having a lack of modesty. Self-esteem means tht you are realistic about your abilities, neither overestimating nor underestimating them.

Self-esteem generally starts developing in children, around the age of 3. Through the approval and praise from the adults around us, we start to view ourselves in a positive way. A healthy level of self-esteem tends to make us happier, but having a low self-esteem doesn’t mean we’re doomed to feel that way forever, we can do something to change it!

Good self-esteem is having the awareness and understanding that we are good in certain things, and that we may be weak in others – and that’s ok. So if you have a bad self-esteem, what can you do?

  1. Get to know yourself. You are your own expert, after all. Start by writing down things you are good at, and things you would like to grow further in.
  2. What do you think about yourself? Write these down. Start to notice if your thoughts tend to be very critical about yourself. ex. “I can’t do this, so I’m bad”. Challenge these thoughts, is there a different way you can word it?
  3. Ask yourself, would you say this to your best friend? If not, then why should you say it to yourself?

By being compassionate and caring towards others, we are one step closer to being compassionate to ourselves. So imagine you are your own best friend, what would you say to that person?

Another recommendation is to be around people who support you and build you up (which means giving critical feedback too, but given in a supportive manner), rather than criticise you. Ask yourself, what kind of people are you surrounded with?

Self-compassion is a skill, it needs to be practiced. And as you become more compassionate and caring towards yourself, the more your self-esteem will begin to improve.

Why do we scream?

Research has shown that there are 6 different types of screams. There are screams out of anger, fear, pain, grief, happiness, and extreme joy. Generally speaking, the first three types of screams are used to signal something alarming, the final three versions are not there to alarm.

What is interesting is that through fMRI scans, participants undertaking a study responded more on a neurological level to the non-alarm screams, than they did for the alarm screams. The researchers theorise that human listeners may tend to respond more quickly, accurately, and with higher neural sensitivity to non-alarm and positive scream calls because these screams “seem to have a higher relevance in human sociobiological interactions.”

This research shows how diverse our communication through screams can be. There used to be the assumption that humans are more wired to react to screams related to danger and alarm, as are primates and other animals, however, through this research it is quite clear that humans react quicker and more efficiently to sounds related more to sociobiological interactions.

What does anxiety feel like, to you?

What does Anxiety feel like for you? Do your palms sweat, does your heart beat faster? Is this a strange feeling, or are you so used to your own fast heartbeat that when it slows down you feel confused? 

Anxiety is a common feeling, and it can be useful, as anxiety reminds us to be careful in situations where we perceive danger. But what if our mind always thinks it’s in danger? Talking about our fears with a trusted person, or a professional, could help us unravel these fears and stressors, recognise what makes them so anxiety-inducing within us, and let them go.

There are various forms of Anxiety, such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social anxiety (or social phobia), panic disorder, and phobias (amongst others). Anxiety can be treated in a myriad of ways, such as psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle modifications, such as by adding more exercise and eating more healthy foods. The type of treatment depends on the severity and type of the anxiety, although the majority of the time it will be a mix of all three forms of treatment.

If your anxiety feels overwhelming, and like it’s too much for you to handle alone, reach out for help. Consider, also, keeping a journal where you can jot down your triggers which are causing this anxiety, and what it feels like in your body, how you notice that you’re feeling anxious.

I was in a training a few years ago, and the trainer used the metaphor of an Octopus to symbolise our attachments and relationships to things. In essence, if I have 8 tentacles, and all 8 of those tentacles are in the same object or person, then while the pleasure I get is 8 times as much, the pain of losing that object or person is also 8 times as much…and probably more because when that thing disappears, my tentacles have nothing else to hold on to. 

So, lets say I put all 8 tentacles into my job. I love it, I feel satisfied, I prefer working to meeting friends, and I progress quickly through my career. What happens then, when I retire? Or when the company I work for goes bankrupt, or I need to leave for one reason or another? Then I’m just floating, unattached and feeling empty. This might result in my jumping from one attachment to another, attaching 8 tentacles to it at a time, never really achieving true stability. 

The ideal scenario is to have our tentacles into multiple things. I can have 3 tentacles in my romantic relationships, 2 tentacles for friends, 2 tentacles in my hobby, and 1 for work for example. Then, if that relationship ends, I will feel the pain of that ending, but I will still have 5 more tentacles attached to different things, and these can help keep me afloat and stable as I grieve that loss. 

Where are your tentacles? Are you happy with the distribution of your energy, time, and passion?

Worrying and Caring

‪”Don’t use your energy to worry. Use your energy to believe, create, trust, grow and heal.”
—Unknown


We worry about the future, about money, about the likes and comments we get on our social media accounts. We worry if we said the wrong thing two months ago, and that’s why our friend takes long to answer our messages now.

We have become so accustomed to worrying, that it has become second-nature. Who are we if we aren’t worrying? What do we do with that extra head space?

We see worrying as caring. If I care about someone, I’ll worry about them. If I care about my job, I’ll worry about it after working hours. Worry has become synonymous with care.

Worrying is not the same as care. Caring brings change. A change in a relationship, a change to ourselves when we practice self care, for example. Rumination and worrying are internalised, it does not promote change, it keeps us stuck.

Caring, is changing.

How to disagree, peacefully?

Nonviolent Communication is a communication process developed by Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960s. This type of communication focuses on three aspects:

  1. Self-empathy  – defined as a deep and compassionate awareness of one’s own inner experience
  2. Empathy – defined as an understanding of the heart in which we see the beauty in the other person
  3. Honest self-expression – defined as expressing oneself in an authentic manner, which is likely to inspire compassion in others.

This is all very positive-sounding and ideal, so how is it actually done?

First, notice what others are doing which is in some way affecting your life (both positively or negatively). It may not be easy to verbalise this observation without judging the other person, but generally using the pronoun “I” as opposed to “you” can really help to avoid making this compassionate conversation an attack.

So after identifying the action which we would like to speak about, next we need to realise what feeling is evoking in us. Is it fear? Is it anger? Is it joy? This is an essential component of compassionate or nonviolent communication.

And lastly, we need to add a specific request. It’s good to express our feelings, but if this action is somehow affecting our wellbeing, then it needs to change – through a collaborative process. Therefore, the request we make of this person needs to be specific, but also manageable. No use asking someone to leave the country because we don’t like the way they speak to us!

So for example, you’re sharing a flat with a friend, and you realise that they’re always leaving dirty laundry all over the place – once you found a pair of socks on the floor near the TV, and another time you found a t-shirt on a chair in the kitchen. You can either choose to keep all the anger and frustration in and then explode later, or you can decide to speak with your flatmate in a compassionate manner. Such as by telling them:

“When I see dirty clothes around the house, I feel irritated because I need more order in the rooms which we share in common. Would you be willing to put your dirty clothes in your room, or in the washing machine?”.

Through the above phrase you are 1. expressing what the action is, 2. expressing how it made you feel, and 3. explaining in a clear and realistic way how the other person can support you.

Applying nonviolent communication to our lives can be daunting, as it involves quite a bit of thinking at first, but once we get the hang of it, and we see how our interactions and confrontations with people change, there’s really no going back.

Befriending Yourself

How often do we meet people who are always there to take care of others? They’re the ones who are always just a message away, ready to give support and care. They’re the ones who are hard on themselves for not doing more for the people around them, despite receiving praise for all that they do. They’re the ones who care so much about others but do nothing to take care of themselves.

Kristin Neff, an associate professor of human development at the University of Texas, found that people who have a higher level of self compassion, experience less stress and anxiety levels when faced with a threatening situations. Neff describes self compassion as “being kind and understanding toward oneself in instances of pain or failure, rather than being harshly self-critical”.

This sounds amazing, but how can we be compassionate to ourselves, when we’re so used to having that inner critic?

In order to practice self-compassion, we should imagine what we would say to a best friend. Usually, we tend to be kinder and more compassionate towards our best friends, and not towards ourselves. So let’s say we failed at something, such as an exam, what would we say to that friend who failed the same exam? Would we tell them off for not studying, or motivate them and encourage them for the resist? We might even offer to have study dates with them! Would we judge a friend’s emotions, or would we validate them?

Neff goes on to say that self-compassion is not an excuse to avoid goals or to become self-indulgent or vain. Rather, self-compassion can be a strong motivator to keep going forwards, as it pushes a person to alleviate their suffering, to thrive, and to be happy.

References

Neff, K. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and identity2(2), 85-101