Below is an Excerpt from The Bridge: A Seven-Stage Map to Redefine Your Life and Purpose by Dr. Marilyn Powers
(C) All Right Reserved by Dr. Marilyn Powers
In Stage Two, you constantly talk to yourself in new ways. You become self-supportive. You encourage yourself. You believe in yourself. You tell yourself that you deserve to be happy. You believe you deserve good things.
Individual situations require some expansion of this general pattern. These are the issues that drag down self-esteem and self-concept.
Stage 2: Developing a Positive Self-Concept
As passionately as you relived your pains and hurts during Stage One, now you affirm how much you love yourself. The result is that you really glow. There is a new light that shines through your eyes. When you become aware of your self-talk and recognize that you can choose the way it sounds, you want to make it as positive as possible.
How could I do that? I can’t believe the way I messed up! What are people going to think? Oh, my God, I looked so stupid. I’ve never been so embarrassed. I want to crawl in a hole and never come out. I will never walk into that place again. What did I expect? What a loser!
Wow, that was a new experience, a real first. I was nervous, but I was courageous. I sure got a lot of feedback and, boy, is that going to help me the next time. I am really proud of myself because I had the courage to step out there and do something for the first time. I got great compliments. I could see that people wanted me to succeed. They understood it was my first time. I learned so much.
It’s important to note that positive self-talk does not mean being a Pollyanna. The difference is in the way the events are framed. For example:
Getting married and divorced four times means I’m a loser. I don’t think there are any good men out there. I feel like an old hag since I’m going through my change. How can I expect anything more from relationships?
Every relationship I’ve been in has been a major stepping stone in my life. I learned so much from each one. I grew as a person. I love men, and I love being in a relationship. My partners helped me work through stuff from my childhood. I treasure everyone I’ve loved. Relationships are like mirrors reflecting my soul’s growth.
Once you have the guidelines that can help you think and reframe things more appropriately, you have the capacity to take control of your self-talk.
Letting go of the “Be Perfect” Script
With a new, emerging self-concept, you might want to know: “What are my new rights? Have I given myself the freedom to choose the ‘scripts’ that support a more expansive and positive self? ”First you will want to let go of the “be perfect” script which usually reads like this: I can’t do anything unless I do it perfectly. Since I would probably make a mistake the first time I tried something new, why take a chance and attempt anything unfamiliar?
While growing up, Rhonda demonstrated a talent for art and dreamt that she would be an artist one day. After graduating from high school, she decided not to apply to a fine arts program because of her fear of rejection and failure, although it was her dream to be an artist. Rather, she chose to become a nail technician. Learning to do nails was easy for Rhonda, although within a few years of working she became restless and bored. What she secretly desired was to pursue her artistic nature. What troubled Rhonda was that to actualize her dream would take years and there was no guarantee that she would be successful. While in a group process, Rhonda became aware that she had to rewrite her “be perfect” script before she could realize her dream.
Several interrelated fears operate here: fear of failure, fear of making a mistake, fear of losing face, and fear of not getting approval. These factors keep you stuck in what you already know and prevent you from trying things that are unknown.
Bill’s story differs by demonstrating his inability to ask for guidance, which had, in the process, put his wife and himself in danger. They went sailing with some friends who were experienced sailors and had a wonderful time. After this excursion, Bill decided he wanted to take his wife sailing by himself. Since Bill had no experience or understanding of how to sail, and hadn’t felt it necessary to ask for training or assistance, the boat capsized and he and his wife nearly drowned. In fact, it wasn’t until he remembered this incident that he acknowledged how difficult it was for him to ask for assistance and direction.
A similar script might read: I can’t ask for help because doing so would reveal that I’m not already perfect. I can’t admit that I don’t know the answer. It’s a sign of weakness to ask for assistance, direction or guidance.
If you are afraid of being revealed as weak or less than perfect, you may feel it necessary to develop multiple facades. Exposing any self- perceived weakness or limitation might be embarrassing. However, maintaining these masks usually causes greater entrapment and generally leads to poor judgment calls.
Letting go of the “be perfect” script releases a heavy burden—the feeling that you’re obligated to do things perfectly the first time. You acknowledge and accept that you are a learner in the process of self- correction. You know you need help. In fact, you realize it is a sign of strength and wisdom to reach out and ask for assistance or support when doing something new.
For a long time, Chris could not admit that she was in an unhappy marriage. It was very important for her to maintain the image of perfection to the outer world—it was better to be unhappy than admit a mistake. When she got to the breaking point, she finally sought counseling. This was an enormous hurdle for her to overcome because she had to admit she needed help. Once Chris became familiar with the process, she realized it wasn’t a sign of weakness to seek help but a sign of strength. After some time, she felt safe to write a new script saying that there will be times when it is perfect to acknowledge what isn’t working. Some months later she had the courage to invite her husband to join her for joint counseling sessions where, to her amazement, he was open and willing to address their issues and make the changes to improve their marriage. Feedback delivered in a respectful manner and by a caring spirit can be difficult to hear as long as the “be perfect” script remains.
As with Chris, both she and her husband needed to learn better ways of listening and communicating their needs to one another. Amazingly, neither one of them had learned how to do this while growing up in their families. Now, in their relationship, they had the opportunity to dismantle the “be perfect” script and be honest with each other.
Taking risks and being less afraid allows you to let go of the fear that others will judge you to be lacking. As you let go of the “know it all” attitude, you gain compassion and patience for yourself and others. Instead of being confined within a box of your own expectations, you open to a greater freedom. The willingness to expose yourself to the possibility of failure by taking risks comes with an increasing ability to accept yourself.
Affirmation: “I accept myself as a whole package. I know that I come with weaknesses, strengths, and areas of ignorance and wisdom. I choose to give myself permission to try something new and not succeed. I choose to give myself room to grow.”
Dr. Marilyn Powers is Co-Founder of The I AM Foundation and the author of The Bridge: A Seven-Stage Map to Redefine Your Life and Purpose. Dr. Marilyn Powers has her Ph.D. in Psychology and Religion and has studied dance at Julliard. She has consulted with thousands of people over her thirty year career including CEO’s of major corporations, government officials, couples, individuals and presidents in YPO (Young President’s Organization). To contact Dr. Marilyn Powers, please visit www.marilynpowers.com