Continuing my series on resilience, today we are going to look at self-perception. How do you view yourself? Are you your own best friend, cheering yourself on through victories and trials, or do you assume the worst about yourself, saying things to yourself that you would never say to someone else? When you make a mistake, do you cut yourself down, or do you give yourself the benefit of the doubt? How you answer these questions says a lot about your ability to bounce back when you hit a wall. It’s essential to have a positive self-view.
And why does it matter?
Recently, I have been losing things. Things like a gift card, an envelope with cash, and a very important birthday card. These things are in my house and I will find them sooner or later. But when something like this happens, it is easy to beat myself up about it. Doing so only heaps more stress and bad feelings onto my already overwhelming pile. It’s important to remind yourself that you are human. Human beings make mistakes and that’s okay. It’s how we learn.
What did I learn? I learned that for up to 2 years after the death of a spouse, you can have very foggy thinking. This is commonly called “widow brain” or “grief brain.” It doesn’t make it any easier, but knowing this allows me to cut off negative self-talk before it gets started.
“How can you be so careless?”
“You will find it eventually. Start writing everything down so that you can free up your mind a bit.”
How does having a positive self-view affect your resiliency?
Imagine you are playing a baseball game—any position. Let’s say you are the batter and you get a strike on the first pitch. Imagine that you cut yourself down. Pretty soon, you aren’t concentrating on your basics, you form and paying attention to the way the pitcher is holding the ball as he releases it. You’ve lost your edge.
If you have a positive self-view, you can encourage yourself, remind yourself of the things you need to do to nail the ball the next time. This is what we need to do during our cancer journey, as well. A bad report from the hospital or a side effect you weren’t expecting. Caregivers often experience caregiver burnout because they are trying to live up to unrealistic expectations without caring for themselves.
Self-Discovery of a Positive Self-View
Take an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. Nurture those strengths. Recognize them and feel good about them. Admit that you are really good at…(You fill in your strength here). In our society, we often shy away from praise and rarely ever give it to ourselves. When someone says you did an awesome job at…whatever you are awesome at, say “Thank you.” That’s not being prideful or arrogant. It’s showing gratitude for their recognition of truth.
Likewise, it’s okay to know what your weaknesses are. This doesn’t mean you can’t do these things. Maybe you just aren’t comfortable with them. How can you overcome these weaknesses? Do some brainstorming with someone who knows you well. You aren’t brainstorming your deficiencies. Instead, choose your #1 weakness and write down all of the ways it is affecting your life. Then think of ideas to reduce the impact of this, as well as how to neutralize this weakness.
I am terrible at small talk, so mixing and mingling in a crowd of people I don’t know is difficult. It can even be hard in a group of people I do know. Every time I go somewhere people will be, I psych myself up. “This is going to be a nice time.” “I look forward to seeing so and so.” If I can bring a close friend with me, it is easier because they are like a built-in buffer. After the get-together, I try not to dwell on any faux pas. That’s the hard part.
Better yet, find ways to turn your “weaknesses” into assets.
Do people say you talk too much? Find a way to utilize your gift of gab. Temple Grandin used her autism to help the meat industry and the animals that were being processed into the food we eat. She was able to see things the way the livestock did. By removing things that triggered a fear response in animals, injuries to the livestock and waste for the meat industry were both reduced. All of this was done while creating a more humane way to slaughter animals. She was initially dismissed—mocked even, for her ideas. Now, she is a rock star in the meat industry.
Trust Your Instincts
When you have a positive self-view, decision making becomes much easier. You can trust your instincts and make choices you are confident about rather than second-guessing yourself. This is especially important when you are making treatment decisions, end of life decisions and any other choice before you.
This is particularly important for caregivers. We forget that we need to take care of ourselves because we are so wrapped up in caring for our loved one who has cancer. It took several years for me to realize the impact this has on a family. It is tied to whether we have a positive self-view or not. Do you see yourself as being equally worthy of care? Do you realize the impact caregiver burnout has on your family?
Allow Others to Help
By asking for help and accepting it, you are nurturing yourself. This can be difficult to do in our society. We are often expected to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and take care of business. There is something to be learned from this phrase.
As a young girl, I competed in horse shows. I had a beautiful English riding outfit, including proper riding boots. They were a bugger to get on, though. For the first time, I learned why riding boots (and all boots that cover your calf) have loops of leather on them. They are for boot hooks. You slip the hooks in each loop of leather on the boot and you pull with all of your might. These hooks make a tremendous difference in your ability to pull the boot on. Your support team makes a big difference in your ability to get back on track. Allow others to help.
By allowing others to help you, you are exhibiting a positive self-view. You are saying that it’s okay to get help. You are worth it. And believe it or not, you are!
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
There is so much more that could be said about this, but I will leave that up to you, my readers. Tell me your thoughts in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!
In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com
Also, put your memories into words with The Memory Maker’s Journal.
I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker