During my time in a support group for women recovering from domestic violence, we were given a challenge. An exercise to start us thinking more positively about ourselves. Having been brainwashed by our abusers to believe we were less and always at fault, our self-esteem was non-existent.
Our challenge was to list thirty of our positive qualities.
I know. Thirty.
I don’t think you have to have emerged from an abusive relationship to struggle with listing thirty. Our society does not encourage us to think about all the good things about ourselves. Rather we are bombarded with messages about how to “improve” ourselves and our lives. We are constantly comparing ourselves with our friends, neighbours, media stereotypes and fictional characters in film and TV, only to come out lacking.
Throughout my working life, particularly in the public service, I was constantly subject to performance reviews and personal development plans. It was always the things that I needed to improve that I noticed. And I always took them personally. I always felt that I wasn’t good enough. Never mind the Catholic guilt I was brought up with.
So writing down the thirty things was hard. Some of us just sat there staring at the numbered sheet of paper, unable to find anything of value about ourselves.
That made me sad. I watched these amazingly strong women, women who have chosen to say “Enough!”, women who have survived unspeakable abuse, struggling to write down a single positive thing about themselves.
Me? I managed to write down 23 by the end of the session. Why? Because I had spent time getting stronger and recovering. My years of therapy had kicked in and I could see through the fog of emotional manipulation that had been inflicted on me. I could see me, or at least I was starting to. I was beginning to see that the things that had been pointed out to me as faults, were actually good things.
I was supposed to take my list home and keep working on it. I didn’t. I did keep it though and found it again only recently.
Today, I want to issue this challenge to you. I want you to write down your thirty things and submit them here for this week’s Things I Know on Friday. If you don’t have a blog, do it anyway and leave me a comment on Friday, telling me how you went.
Here are some guidelines* to help you.
- Think of aspects of your personality that you value and like and really don’t want to lose.
- Consider the things that other people compliment you on. Your eyes, your cooking, your patience, your generosity, anything. People usually mean it and don’t lie when they compliment you, so you know that these things are true.
- Think of your different roles in life – as a worker, friend, neighbour, citizen, partner, son or daughter, brother or sister, mother… Think of the different areas of your life – at home, at work, sport or leisure… I know many of you are super creative and have amazing skills with various hobbies. These things count, too.
- Thing of anything you have achieved or any moments you have been quietly proud and ask yourself “What does this event, action, behaviour, tell me about myself? What qualities did I have that enabled me to do or say this?
- Your things could be big or small. It could be that you make great coffee. It could be that you’re a great listener. It could be that you love reading.
It will probably feel awkward at first. Push through anyway. It will get easier the more you write. If you run out before you hit thirty, leave it and come back another day. You have until midnight on Sunday when the Things I Know link up closes.
I will publish my own list of thirty on Friday. Will you join me?
* The concept and guidelines have been adopted from material handed out at my support group and were developed by a psychologist. Please note, I am NOT a psychologist. I am sharing this exercise because it helped me.
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