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The Benevolent Inner Observer (Self Confidence, Part 3)

Today I am back to one of my favorite subjects on this Blog: The subject of self-confidence. Part 1 dealt with all sorts of reasons for a lack of self confidence, while in part 2 you already received your first tips how you may be able to question a potential innermost negative dialogue with yourself and how you may be able to replace it with one that should be more helpful. With this contribution I would like to try and give you some support in dealing a little more friendly with yourself in every day life.

Experience shows that people with a reduced sense of self worth like to live according the motto: “Love your neighbor more than yourself!” Surely a socially acceptable mantra and for those around you obviously quite comfortable and agreeable! However not a particularly fertile soil for the growth of a sound self-confidence and innermost equilibrium – and if one is inclined to believe the bible, even God is less exacting in his demands of us and He probably knows why…

A little experiment can easily help you determine whether you are one of those who are tougher on him/herself than on those around him/her: Think of a good friend. Spontaneously think of three things that you find endearing and admirable about him/her. Then perform the same exercise with yourself: What makes you as a person endearing and admirable to others? Now ask yourself which question was more awkward for you. About which one did you have to ruminate longer? If it was the second you probably live according to the motto: “A man's praise in his own mouth stinks!” and you could clearly use a little tutoring in that respect.

Now turn this exercise around. Which of your friend’s qualities kind of bother you a little? And which features do you dislike about yourself? Do you have to ponder the first question for a while and are you then able to answer the second one hands down?

Are you familiar with the following situation: You have done / achieved something and are praised for it by others - or you are paid an unexpected compliment about your appearance on that day for instance, or, what you are wearing at that time. And your immediate almost reflexive response is defensive: “Aw shucks, that is nothing special!” – “I was just lucky that it worked out!” – “Nonsense, I have had to get my hair done for weeks and gained weight again to boot.” People with low self esteem often have trouble to accept positive feedback with a grateful smile and to enjoy it – the contrast to their self-image is just too wide! Their first reaction is playing everything like that down.

An important characteristic of people with low self-esteem is frequently the tendency to eyeball themselves very critically: What is wrong with me? What did I do wrong now? What could I have done better? On the other hand they are as miserly with praise for themselves as Scrooge, barely manage to appreciate their own achievements or discover anything positive about themselves. They don’t console themselves by treating themselves especially tenderly and carefully when something truly goes awry in their life but turn into their own merciless critics: “No wonder that this happened to you, after all, you are incompetent ... Not likeable ... a loser ... an idiot!” (In turn they often act exactly in the reverse when the same accident befalls someone else! For him/her they have all the comforting and encouraging words they would never come up with for themselves!)

It is a fact that each one of us carries different personality characters within oneself, different „inner parts“ of our self, so to speak. In certain situations you may already have noticed reactions about yourself that really are not those of a grown-up but objectively seen appear to be pretty childish. Or that in many respects you are rather timid – but then find the courage of a lion within yourself and manage to assert yourself rather well where certain things are concerned. In any case, you always sense those different „inner parts“ of your personality when you face a crisis about decisions that must be made and because you just don’t know, what to do. Generally, there is one „inner part“ within you pointing you in one direction and another into another direction. That, by the way, does not mean that all of us are split personalities but is rather normal and healthy. In most cases the different inner parts get along with each other quite well and each one of them comes into its own – in other words, it manages to assert itself. Your grown up-character may make sure that you get up on time in the morning in order to go to work, while your child-character really lets go when you are somewhere with your inline skaters or race match box cars on the floor with your own children. And that is right and important.

Due to exterior or inner circumstances we occasionally have inner parts claiming more space and decision-making dominance than they deserve, quasi “muzzling” other inner parts that should really be important, as well. I always enjoy visualizing that as a plenary hall with one rowdy drowning out all other characters with his stentorian voice so that the others can’t get a word in edgewise. At one point the others get frustrated and give up, become more and more muted if they are still saying anything at all. With insecure people this inner rowdy is very often the detractor, the inner character who pulls everything apart, always fears the worst, and always chooses the most negative of all available choices to interpret a situation. And if he (or she) has already been in charge for a few years, it gets pretty difficult to put him/her in his/her place! You are going to need an ally – and he/she is also within yourself even though his/her voice has gotten less and less audible over the years because he/she had the feeling that no one is listening to him/her, anyhow. He/she is more or less the opponent, the counterpart of your inner detractor. Let‘s therefore call him/her your „Benevolent Inner Observer“ for the moment. Together with you, I would like to coax this ally into the forefront if you won’t mind. It is possible that he/she may be a little hoarse, difficult to understand, even insecure – no wonder with all the experiences he/she has had with your “detractor”! But don’t worry: In most cases he/she is very happy to be finally permitted to speak and relatively quickly regains his/her voice. (You are most likely to notice your benevolent inner part when someone else who is close to you, has made a mistake or is unhappy with him/herself. Then this character is immediately available, comforts, helps, and finds excuses and such. So, from now on, whenever the detractor keeps pushing him/herself into the foreground, we just have to support your „Benevolent Inner Observer“ a little to help giving him/her the intestinal fortitude to return to the speaker’s lectern on your behalf.)

It works best if you take a moment of your time to actually visualize this benevolent inner part as a person, a character. In this context “person” simply means that you are free to give him/her form: You could turn him or her into a human or choose a strong animal or decide on a fairy tale or fable being, maybe a fairy, an elfin or an old wise man or woman … choose what suits you best. Some people believe it makes the most sense to imagine the Benevolent Observer, the old, wise and gentle person they will become themselves one day. That is entirely up to you. It is only important that your inner observer is given a form, a face and a voice. His/her characteristics are always the same: He/she is understanding, mild, full of love and understanding for you and everything you do and his/her intentions are always the best. He/she exists to help you, support you, to motivate you, to coach you, to encourage and comfort you, in short to accompany you throughout your entire life with affection and respect. He/she will always be there for you, never abandon you and will always be a benevolent and helpful counselor, and he/she knows nothing of criticism or destructive comments …

Take sufficient time to imagine this Benevolent Inner Observer in detail. If you would like, you can give him or her a name. This name should always be accompanied be an adjective that reflects its positive disposition towards you – for example, you could call him/her your “Good” Fairy, or your “Loving” Wolf or simply your “Best” Friend. One thing you should not do, is choose someone who actually exists in your environment. Whatever you decide on, it should be a creature of your imagination rather than a part of your reality. If you feel like it, you may want to consider giving him/her concrete a form. For instance, if you have chosen a lion as the gentle companion, it may work for you to get yourself a key ring or something else in the form of a lion that will always remind you of him/her. Or you could draw his/her picture that you can occasionally look at. You’ll just have to see what will suit you and work for you.

Once your Benevolent Inner Observer has found his/her form, begin to enter into a dialogue with him/her. You’ll have many opportunities for this: Every morning while you are getting ready for the day you could come up with a caring sentence he or she would give you to take along if he or she were to stand behind you: Maybe a compliment or an encouragement for everything facing you today or something totally different? Since his/her voice is going to be rather soft in the beginning it may be helpful if you wrote the sentence on a little piece of paper and stick it into your pocket for the day – and occasionally take it out to take a look at it. Or if you put the symbol for your Benevolent Inner Observer (if you have chosen one and it is manageable) into your pocket and occasionally hold it in order to maintain your contact with him/her.

During the day ask yourself: If your Benevolent Inner Observer were to observe you at what you are doing/saying/thinking, what would he/she say to you? What would he/she wish for you? What would he/she possibly do?

If something is really tough, frustrating or troublesome: What would your Benevolent Inner Observer say to you to root for you, encourage and motivate you? How would he/she support you? What would he/she recommend to make you feel better?

Especially when you catch yourself in the process of once again mercilessly running yourself down: Hold it for a moment and ask yourself what your Benevolent Inner Observer would have to say about that!

In the evening take a moment to go over the day with your Benevolent Companion one more time. What was it about this day that he/she felt especially good about you? When was he/she especially pleased with you, what made him/her exceptionally proud? At what point did he/she join you in being happy when something positive happened to you?

When certain sentences of your Benevolent Inner Observer are especially helpful or if you like them particularly well, you can always “eternalize” them: Write them on a nice postcard that fits them and hang them somewhere in your apartment or place of work where you can always see them.

With all of these exercises it is important for you have to keep in mind that this Benevolent Inner Observer has only something positive to say about you – critique, ridicule, harassing, pessimism or anything like that are totally foreign to him/her. You are the person in his/her life whom he/she values most of all, in whom he/she believes unconditionally and for whom he/she wants only the best! All of his/her commentaries about you and your life are intended accordingly…

In the beginning this entire exercise may appear a little strange and your Benevolent Inner Observer may run into problems to make him/herself heard over the barrage of your Inner Detractor. That is only a matter of time and persistence. Give him/her a permanent place in your life and deliberately let him/her speak up regularly and hopefully ever more frequently and forcefully … and be pleasantly surprised about the changes in yourself and your feeling of self worth.

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