Authentic freedom comes from within. We are the only ones who can free our minds.

Just as a butterfly emerges from a constricting cocoon to beautify the world, you can break out of old confining habits, bringing light and peace to yourself and those around you.

Free yourself from outdated childhood beliefs. These youthful misconceptions can keep you from receiving positive energy in your life today.

Perfectionism

Computer keyboard image

Isabella was a perfectionist. She fell into a common procrastination trap of putting off a project until the last minute so she had an excuse for not being perfect. She knew if she waited until the last minute she didn't have to do her best. Then she would tell herself she could have done better if she had taken her time.

Isabella's manager gave her a project to complete by the end of the week. She wanted to impress her boss, and she worried all week about the task. But she didn't start the project until the day before it was due. Because she procrastinated, she had to stay up all night finishing it. The next day at work she was tired, but relieved because she'd completed the assignment. However, there were some glaring flaws in her work since she'd left it to the last minute. Her boss was disappointed.

Isabella left work that night with a knot in her stomach. She hated feeling like a failure, but it was something she'd experienced all of her life.

Girl studying image

This incident was a gift for Isabella. She reflected back to childhood times when she felt worthless because she never did things good enough. She purchased a feeling journal and wrote to release those perceptions. She listed all the negative statements she had berated herself with over the years. Then she replaced them with positive affirmations. She said these mantras to herself daily.

As she continued with this program, she said a positive spark began to grow in her. It was as if the child she had been needed someone to tell her she was good and capable. She didn't have to be perfect.

Isabella persisted with the positive affirmations, and she could feel herself heal inside each time she said them. She began to change her behavior. The next time her boss gave her a project, she started it right away. Her work quality improved because she still had her good eye for detail and follow through. But now she had given herself enough time to use her skills and talents and do a good job—not a perfect one, but a good one.

What did Isabella do to change her behavior and her feeling?

  1. She identified times in her childhood when she felt worthless.
  2. She journaled her feelings.
  3. She replaced critical statements about herself with positive affirmations.
  4. She continued to say them to herself, replacing the negative self talk with positive.
  5. She let go of her procrastinating behaviors and completed her work on time, using her talents to the best of her ability.

Modify the perfectionist inside of you with this step-by-step guide.

Procrastination

Sparkler image

Research suggests that only eight percent of us keep our New Year's Resolutions (statisticbrain.com). Goal setting can be such a beneficial part of our lives, leading us in the direction we really want to go.

However, many of us start out in the right direction but aren't able to maintain our momentum.

Procrastination blocks positive energy. Has there ever been a time when you didn't get to the things on your list that you really wanted to do? Did you feel frustrated or angry? Negative energy blocks the goodness around you.

Reba and her husband had been looking forward to their Greek Island dream cruise for over a year. Reba knew she had some bills to pay and laundry to do before they left, but she put off doing them until the evening before their flight to Rome. She worked late into the night—feeling a lot of stress. Early next morning she dragged herself out of bed and was late getting ready. She and her husband argued all the way to the airport. Heavy traffic and long security lines added to her anxiety, and they almost missed their flight.

Reba began the trip with negative energy, which seemed to spread to everything around her. The struggle to regain positive energy haunted her for several days. She temporarily lost the blessing of serenity because she put things off.

Couple on vacation image

She and her husband had a great time after they released the rocky beginning of their trip.

Island boats image

Reba vowed never to let that happen again. After they returned home, she journaled her procrastinating behaviors for a couple of weeks. She wanted to stop the negative energy she attracted because she put things off.

Here are some of the ways Reba changed her behavior.

  1. She began by pairing a positive task with one she didn't want to do.

    She made herself get the laundry done before she went shopping.

  2. She posted little notes to jog her mind back to the peace and serenity she wanted.

    She made a list of positive mantras to say daily.

  3. She gave gratitude for the negative energy that filled her before the cruise.

    It was a great gift because it led her to her goal of joy and tranquility.

  4. She was patient with herself. The changes happened slowly over time.

    When she did procrastinate, she evaluated her behavior and reset her goals.

An obstacle may either be a stepping stone or a stumbling block. It's your choice.

—Unknown

We are shaped by our thoughts. We become what we think.

—Buddha

Release the procrastination in your life with this step-by-step guide.

Searching for Love

Searching for Love image

A young adult, Victoria, came into therapy. Depression fueled her eating disorder. She felt lonely—without the support of her family.

Victoria's parents had been divorced for almost ten years. Her father remarried and had a second family. They lived in a small supportive community, and the family seemed happy.

Victoria wanted that kind of life. Her step mom was nice to Victoria and tried to love her. But Victoria was afraid allow the love of her father and his family into her life. With lots of tears and journaling, she tumbled to the fact that she couldn't let her dad and his family nurture her because that would be disloyal to her mother.

Her mother was bitter about the divorce—constantly putting Victoria's father down—even though she had been the one who'd had an affair.

Deep down inside, Victoria wanted nurturing from her mother, but her mother couldn't give that kind of love. Victoria tried to please her mother, but her mother always criticized Victoria's actions, and they fought often. Without realizing it, Victoria was angry at her mother.

Because Victoria rejected the love from her dad and his family, she was left with no one.

Shopping mall image

As Victoria stood back and looked at the love her family had to offer, she began to accept affection from her mother as her mom could give it. For instance, her mother would never listen to Victoria's feelings or her view of life. But she could take Victoria shopping, and they could laugh over a funny movie.

Victoria began to release her anger towards her mother. When her mom said negative things about her dad, Victoria changed the subject, and her mother got the idea.

Family at the beach image

Victoria started to spend more time with her dad and his family. She loved to play with her younger half-sisters at the beach, and she could talk to her dad and step mom about anything because they really listened.

She came to understand those around her and accept the nurturing they were capable of giving. Rather than rejecting the love that was available and isolating herself, she welcomed the support and warmth that was offered.

Study your own life. Is love available to you? Can you allow the caring that is around you to be enough?

How did Victoria break out of the constricted feelings of living without love?

  1. She journaled until she found the mistaken beliefs of her childhood.
  2. She accepted the love from her mother as it was available to her
  3. She set her boundaries with her mother.
  4. She allowed her father's love into her life.
  5. She enjoyed the family nurturing that was accessible.

Look for love in safe places. Accept the love your family can give and let it be good enough. If you have lost loved ones or if family members are unavailable, seek nurturing friends or other relatives and create a substitute family.

Become the best you can be. Find answers to this and other question with this step-by-step guide.

Negative Thinking

Storm clouds image

A good friend from college, Angel, grew up in a home with negative parental communication. She could find the worst-case scenario quicker than lightning.

I used to tease her, "You live in stormy weather, never in sunshine."

She replied, "If I think about the storm, I'll never be caught off guard."

"But you never experience the sunshine," I said.

As the years went by, she struggled to maintain a sense of value in her life. She became withdrawn and finally escaped into a drug addiction she couldn't shake.

She attended several different twelve step groups, but they didn't seem to help. She moved to a new job in a new city to get away from her drug friends, but that made no difference. None of the external fixes seemed to change her. Her depression deepened because she could see no solution. She always looked for and expected the negative.

She had strong ties with her church, and her minister encouraged her to give service in the community. He told Angel that kindness toward others would help more than anything else she could do. Angel tried volunteering at several local organizations. It didn't help. She quit each one after a few weeks.

Finally, when Angel was really depressed, she heard that volunteers were needed at the women's prison in a religious capacity. She decided to try working there. These women were down and out, but she found she liked being with them. Most were unhappy like she was. Angel could understand their feelings because she looked at life the same way.

Barbed wire image

The prisoners were assigned a positive self-help workbook they had to complete. It seemed to make a difference in the women's lives so Angel decided to try it herself. If these women could change, maybe she could also. The program "clicked" in Angel's head, and she began to use the skills involved in the course. She had been resistant to change for years, but now she could accept it.

Angel learned about taking personal responsibility for herself. She knew now that external changes (like drug use) couldn't help until she began to make internal changes.

She had to break out of her negative thinking patterns. But that was hard. She'd thought and believed the negative forever. If she wasn't being critical of herself and others, what would she think about?

She wrote gratitude mantras and positive thoughts about herself, and repeated them daily. They began to change her. Slowly, little-by-little she started to feel better about herself. Optimistic energy entered her life like the beginning of a sunrise. She wasn't in full sunshine yet, but it would come. She had found her path toward the light.

Sunrise image

Why did it take Angel so long to begin to change?

She didn't believe she could change.

Attitude has so much to do with our healing process. Angel didn't believe in change until she saw women who were really down and out start to heal. If they could find positive energy, so could she.

How did Angel break out of the constricting negativity that confined her life?

  1. She believed she could change.
  2. She addressed negative thinking patterns.
  3. She replaced her pessimism with gratitude and positive thoughts.
  4. She allowed positive energy and peace to flow into your life.

Free yourself from the negativity that surrounds you with this step-by-step guide.

Debilitating Fears

Dizzying scene image

Betty feared small, enclosed spaces, like an elevator. This inhibited her life because she couldn't go on vacation and stay in a hotel. Riding on mass transit of any kind, including busses and airplanes was out of the question. She had no choice, but to stay home. She had a friend that wanted her to go on a cruise, but she was afraid. She was determined to change the remaining years of her life and get out to see the world.

Her mother, now gone, had been the nervous type, and her father was still a kind and loving person. As a child she always remembered being afraid of small enclosures. The only incident she could relate to her fear was her younger brother's friends shutting her in the tool shed behind the house as a joke. But she had been afraid of tight places before that.

We worked together using systematic desensitization, which means: to make yourself less nervous about a situation or an object through gradual exposure. You face your fear one step at a time.

Before we began the desensitizing process, she practiced meditating every day, using deep breathing and listening to soothing music. She kept a worry rock with her that was small and smooth to rub her thumb across in her pocket.

Zen stones image

Betty used affirmative self-talk and other soothing techniques as she practiced the following:

Step 1: Walk into the elevator and walk out again. Repeat this step until anxiety has lessened. As Betty performed this task, she used positive statements to encourage herself. She used her deep breathing techniques and rubbed the rock in her pocket. As soon as she completed this step, she visualized herself completing step 2.

Step 2: Walk into the elevator and close the door. Open it immediately and walk out. Betty used her soothing techniques and repeated this step until her uneasiness diminished.

Step 3: Walk into the elevator, close the door and ride up one floor. Open the door and immediately get out. As Betty rode the elevator over and over, her anxiety and fear lessened. She increased the level of difficulty with each step, until she could ride the elevator to the floor of her choice. She felt a great victory. She could check into a hotel and not worry about getting to her room. She practiced being in small hallways, bathrooms, and other small enclosures.

Elevator image

She and her friend took a short flight from Las Vegas to Phoenix and back. She felt ready to travel. She and her friend chose a Caribbean cruise where they were sure there would be some open spaces for them to relax.

Sunset image

Betty came home from her vacation elated because she accomplished her goal and had a wonderful time.

Always do what you are afraid to do.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

What did Betty do to achieve her monumental goal?

  1. Check to see if she could find any mistaken childhood beliefs.
  2. Develop soothing techniques like:

    • Meditation
    • Deep breathing
    • Soothing Music
    • Worry Rock
    • Visualization
  3. Systematically desensitized herself to small enclosures.
  4. Desensitize herself to previously inhibiting means of travel.
  5. Enjoy the fruits of her hard work by taking a real vacation.

Let go of debilitating fears. Become the best you can be. Find answers to this and other question with this step-by-step guide.

Compulsive Behavior

Hand washing image

Debilitating fears can alter your life style. If your worry about germs causes you to wash your hands excessively or clean compulsively, it is keeping you from the joys and blessings of positive energy.

I worked with a dear lady, Della, who was bound by ritualistic behavior concerning, among other things, her household cleaning. The bathroom sink had to be scrubbed clockwise and tapped in several places in order to be sanitary. Della feared illness if she wasn't precise in her ceremony.

A psychiatrist helped with her medications, and she addressed her behaviors in therapy. As a child her father abused her, and her mother was a meticulous housekeeper, constantly warning Della that she would get sick if she didn't clean very thoroughly.

Della added the rituals as a child to make sure she did a sanitary job. She could see that her cleaning practices started with her mother's critical voice.

She also had a hard time letting go of mail and old papers because the intricate tapping behaviors took such a long time to complete.

Stack of paper image

Each time she omitted one of her rituals, she became very anxious. In counseling Della learned to soothe herself through positive self-talk. She developed an extensive set of affirmations, and said them to herself several times a day.

Meditation image

Several of the affirmations she wrote herself were:

  • My body is strong and healthy.
  • I can clean my sink in any way I wish.
  • I can let go of fear. It doesn't serve me well.
  • My internal strength comes from inner wisdom.
  • I am a creation of infinite worth.

When nervous energy overwhelmed her and she found herself pacing the floor, she listened to calming music pictured beautiful landscapes.

Waterfall image

Visualizing herself as a whole, healthy person helped her let go. She came to know that the bathroom sink would be sanitary no matter which direction she scrubbed it, and that she didn't need to tap the mail before she threw it away. Deliberately, she stopped the behaviors one-by-one, working through the anxiety each time she did.

Progress was slow, but she walked the healing path.

The whole secret of existence is to have no fear.

—Buddha

How did Della walk beyond her fear?

  1. She addressed her mistaken childhood beliefs.
  2. Wrote and said her affirmations to change her thinking.
  3. Practiced self-soothing with her music.
  4. Visualized herself as healthy.
  5. She was determined to succeed, and she did.

Let go of debilitating fears. Become the best you can be. Find answers to this and other question with this step-by-step guide.

Body Image

Woman silhouette image

The overwhelming majority of the women I worked with in therapy had a poor body image. One client thought her nose was ugly and had it reconstructed. She was surprised that she didn't feel any different after the plastic surgery. Another said her ankles were thick. Thin teens saw themselves as fat. You are so much more than just your physical body.

Mandy, had a kind, gentle personality. She was a good mother, gave service in her community, and loved her neighbors. However, Mandy thought she was ugly and fat. It didn't matter how much others praised her. The words they said were like water running off a duck's back.

No one in Mandy's family of origin had a good body image. Her mother weighed over 300 pounds. Her father beat her. Her brothers teased Mandy and were critical of her. Mandy released many of her feelings through her journal and in therapy, but she still couldn't change her thinking.

The only way Mandy was able to motivate herself to change was to see that her thoughts and actions were teaching her daughter negative feelings about body image. She wanted her daughter to feel good about herself, so she began carrying out some positive assignments she set up for herself.

It's pretty hard to start a child out in the way he should go if that isn't the way you are going.

—Unknown

Mandy could hardly stand to touch her body, let alone put lotion on herself. So her first assignment was to nurture herself by rubbing her hands and her feet with lotion once a day. Her body image was so negative that it took several weeks for her to accomplish this task.

Feet image

As soon as she felt comfortable with that, she went on to lotion her lower legs and lower arms. Each week she included another part of her body. It was a slow process of change for Mandy, but she was happy with her progress. Soon she felt able to get a manicure and a pedicure.

It is difficult to alter life-long habits of thinking and behaving. It doesn't happen overnight. It takes motivation—even if you begin for someone else. Mandy began to believe the things she told herself. She is so much more than just her body. She is love and beauty and power. This is one of her favorite pictures because she said it represented love, beauty, and power.

Waterfall image

How did Mandy initially motivate herself to make changes?

  1. She released many of her childhood feelings.
  2. She began to change her thoughts and actions for her daughter because she couldn't do those things for herself yet.
  3. She started with small steps that she could accomplish.
  4. As she changed her thinking, her feelings and actions changed.
  5. She began to mentor herself more, letting feelings of love and beauty into her life.

Let go of your negative body image. Become the best you can be. Find answers to this and other question with this step-by-step guide.


Becoming Free: A Woman's Guide to Internal Strength has this story and many others to help you find the available love in your life.