When we go through tough times, there are many problems we have to deal with. For instance, we have to cope with our own thoughts, feelings, and personal upheavals. As well, we have to grapple with all the other myths, lies and stigmas that get in our way of healing. Loss affects everybody and we all go through hardships in one way or another. Everyone is on the same scale of loss issues but each person has their own unique place on it. Unfortunaely for some of us, when we are going through particularly hard times, we begin to identify ourselves according to our circumstances. How so?
The thing is, when we have to deal with all these projections, judgments, lies and blame/shame, and guilt-beatings from others, we may absorb their opinions. This means we allow them to cloud how we think and feel about ourselves, and our place within the world we live in. As a result, these stories we feed ourselves interfere with our ability to enjoy life and get on with life after loss and hardship. So this complicates the grieving process and unfortunately extends it. We then ride on this rollercoaster of upheaval, dips and turns. Why is that? It is because we are having trouble establishing equilibrium in life and affects our peace of mind and inner solitude. This imposes upon our progress to move forward through the learning curve towards acceptance. How do we begin to move away from these inner roadblocks?
Here is the key. In order to make the shift towards self acceptance, it requires that we confront those lies, stigmas, judgments, and projections – that we unfortunately adopted as our own. When we do not confront these stigmas and projections, then we end up carrying them around like a baggage carousel at the airport. We are carrying everybody else’s baggage, including our own. So stigmas are like baggage we scoop up at the airport and take home with. So in what type of situations can stigmas contaminate our lives?
Many stigmas in life stalk us and seem to kick us when we are down and make situations worse. And they become more apparent when we experience losses and hardships. They are always there lying below the surface of our conscious. Those lurking thought patterns skew how we cope, make decisions, and stay true to ourselves. There are multiple types of instances in which this occurs.
Take for example, the following circumstances: When we experience losses through divorce, death, illness, depression, abuse, rape, addictions, jail time, weight issues, job loss, homelessness, mental illness, parenting, bankruptcy, financial hardships, and losing a dream. Well, what types of messages do we hear as a result of stigmas associated with various states of affairs in ones life?
Let’s ride the turbulence train and explore some of the rubbish we hear all too often today in society, from friends and family, colleagues, and the like. “He is a divorcee, I wonder what he did wrong? She left him so he must have cheated.” “She is a widow, how can she celebrate Xmas so soon, he hasn’t even been in the grave 1 year?” “I heard she was raped, what did she do to bring that on herself?” “He hit her, I wonder what she did wrong?” “He had a problem with drugs 5 years ago, we can’t hire a drug addict, he’ll steal from the cash register.” “She has been sad too long after the divorce. Since she can’t snap out of it, obviously she can barely take care of herself let alone have access to our children. She’d be a bad influence on our kids.” “I can’t date him because he has been divorced twice, obviously he has personal baggage, and isn’t the loyal type.” “He went bankrupt 9 years ago, so probably he will eventually stiff us with the rent.” “All people on subsidy, homeless, or need the food bank are losers.“
The questions now are, have you victimized yourself and accepted these heaps of manure shovelled upon your heart? Have you allowed your predicament to define who you think you are and adulterated your concept of self worth? Have you pronounced yourself as “not enough or broken?” Do you feel lovable and deserving of something more than what you are experiencing now?
Here is something new to consider in relation to how we think about ourselves and our experiences. Scientists now know that our brain changes physiologically with every single experience, recurring thoughts, and every conversation. Examples may include whether we have more upbuilding discussions, stressful chats or arguments, or demeaning gossip. Another thing that shapes our brain include our inner dialogue. This self talk may reflect the false beliefs and opinions of others from their experiences. How does this play out?
Let’s start here. The myths and lies that we’ve accepted as true, change how our brain attempts to support us when making decisions. Even if we are not consciously aware of the repetitious thoughts we engage in — they are consistently changing the structure of the neuro-pathways of our brain. How is this so? Biologically, the more we use certain parts of the brain, the more DNA are fired in those parts of the brain cells to make more neuronal connections and pathways. Certain parts of the brain are responsible for different processes. Some examples include things like our ability to think and reason, make decisions, sort our emotions, access intuition, or maybe process information. Sections of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex are responsible for our senses such as hearing, smell, taste, etc… So more neural connections and pathways can be established as more neurons are fired and actually connect different parts of the brain together. And therefore, this results in the amplification of recurring thoughts, memories, sensations and responses of the mind and body.
Therefore, our positive and negative experiences amplify and shape our brain and establish more pathways for the next time we are in a similar situation. The more we keep tuning into those frequencies, the more automatic and unconscious we become. We can get locked on autopilot frequencies unless we make a conscious choice.
Once we move from unconscious autopilot frequencies to making conscious choices, then a shift begins. The conscious choice is always going to be more supportive in creating forward movement in our lives.
When we begin to make conscious choices around a specific topic or area of concern in our lives, by consciously focusing on it, we literally rewire our brain. We move into conscious, affirmative personal decision making instead of the old autopilot, given to us by other people. This means that how we consciously focus our attentions, the positive and negative, shapes our view of ourselves and the world. When we repeat and reinforce the false beliefs, myths and lies, we are also shaping our brain structure. And the cycle repeats itself in either a positive or negative biofeedback way so we either move forward or continue to spiral away from what we want. So whatever we think about most and what we place our attention on frequently, you are going to get more of what you are already experiencing.
This means you have the ability to rewire your brain by the simple conscious act of making a choice. You no longer have to fall victim to to old patterns, stigmas or beliefs.
Great! So how do we get beyond the shadow of stigmas that cloud our self concept?
Stigmas may include being treated unfairly because of who we are or being criticized for a characteristic we have, be it gender, age, race, height, or hardship.
KNOW: EVERYBODY is influenced by stigma in some way.
The first step is to put those stigmas aside for awhile and give ourself space to become aware of our situation. Sometimes we need to just pause before taking the next step. We need to take time to understand the meaning we have been assigning to our personal problem(s).
Have you placed yourself within a “stigma” box and cramped your vitality and ability to fully inhabit your life?
We always have the choice about how we view any circumstance or situation. We may have to learn to talk to ourselves in different ways. We might be saying to ourselves, “Others will judge me because this is happening to me. I can’t be as successful because this is happening to me. I am not good enough; I am broken; I need to be fixed.”
In contrast, we could interrupt that old pattern and choose to affirm “I don’t have to believe what others think about me. I know who I am and what I have to offer. I don’t need to be right, all that matters is what I think. I have great qualities that will help me be successful in achieving my goals. Nobody knows me and has been through every experience in my life, or walked in my shoes. I can try my best. I will always have my own back!”
Imagine what it would be like if you developed the ability to manage those old patterns and stigmatizing beliefs? How would your life change? How would your thoughts about yourself be different if you were able to change how those old stigmatizing beliefs affected you? Remember that sometimes our own self talk, the little voice in our own heads, is our biggest bully; it is our harshest critic. We would never talk to other people as harshly as we criticize ourselves because it would destroy their self-worth and self esteem (and we would get a punch in the nose!) Yet we do this to ourselves.
Self worth is recognizing that we are greater than all of those lies, myths and stigmas. When we begin to truly believe and feel that we are not defined by other people, we become more self-accepting. We then give ourself more respect, love and care. And we become more forgiving of ourself.
You need to take care of Yourself because the only person you are around ALL OF THE TIME, for your entire life, is yourself.
One way to care for ourself is to express compassion and give ourself a break. We can make conscious choices about HOW to care for ourselves. And we we can place our attention on the aspects of our current situation for what it is, objectively as an observer. Then we can be above self-criticism and pronouncements like “that’s bad or that’s good”. When we begin to assert that “it is what it is”, then we can turn our attention to what we need to do to grow beyond the problem. If we stay stuck in the problem, we run the danger of building an identity of being broken or not enough. Its just a matter of shedding the lies, myths, and stigmas that bombard us and embracing self-acceptance and self-love.
We are here to say that “You Are Not Broken! You are enough and you do not need to be fixed. It is just a matter of finding your equilibrium. “