Inferior: Better By Monday

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” –Eleanor Roosevelt.

Self-esteem seems to cause confusion among parents and professionals. Some professionals say it is necessary, others contradict its essential goodness and say that the self-esteem movement has created false positives for young people.

An article in Psychology Today about the downfall of self-esteem by Dr. Jim Taylor argued that “Self-esteem is commonly thought of as how we feel about ourselves, our appraisal of our own self-worth. But real self-esteem is a complex attribute that has become one of the most misunderstood and misused psychological characteristics of the last 40 years.”

Self-esteem is misunderstood because it is more than having a positive feeling about yourself. If the feelings you have are good and a less than good performance doesn’t change your appraisal – are you using facts to make that assessment? When we protect ourselves from feeling less capable, we set up the belief that when we are less than capable – we are bad or wrong. If we hope feeling good will carry our confidence forward without the skills to back it up – we start feeling fear. Confidence comes from being true to self, not from pretending skills exist before they do.

Dr. Taylor goes on to address this problem, “Sometime back in the ’70s when the “self-esteem movement” started, a bunch of parenting experts said that raising well-adjusted children is all about self-esteem. And I couldn’t agree more. This is also when America’s self-esteem problem began because parents and other influences on self-esteem (e.g., teachers and coaches) got the wrong messages about self-esteem from those experts. Instead of creating children with true self-esteem, our country has created a generation of children who, for all the appearances of high self-esteem, actually have little regard for themselves (because they have little on which to base their self-esteem).”

Learning a new skill, practicing it, and enjoying the feeling of being a little more capable is the fuel of self-esteem. Not everyone wins the game, but that doesn’t make the team who lost losers. However, making both teams believe that there is no difference between a win and loss (to protect self-esteem) replaces esteem with a false positive.A faulty equation is: Winning feels good, kids deserve to feel good, so let all the kids win.

The better equation is: Reality is grounding, winning and losing happens but doesn’t change your worth, let kids learn from developing skills which help them win games and handle losses.

On Thing to Do: Don’t attach labels about personal worth to playing a game. Enjoy winning and learn from losing. Achieve a better sense of self for all of your efforts.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Boasting: Better By Monday

“Usually, the greatest boasters are the smallest workers. The deep rivers pay a larger tribute to the sea than shallow brooks, and yet empty themselves with less noise.” –W. Secker

I have heard about the fault of boasting since my childhood. I was instructed never to praise myself out loud or in private because it would give me a “big head.” I had no idea what my grandma was referring to, but I could visualize myself with a head twice as big as normal, and I did not want that happening to me.

If a Brook could feel good or bad would the feeling be a positive experience, even pride provoking to the point of boasting? That question makes me wonder about a path we all travel which starts with mindless doing. The River and the Brook are mindlessly doing an activity and will stay that way; we change with awareness.

When a new toddler begins walking, evaluation by the child of her skill level, doesn’t happen immediately. The curiosity of a new experience seems to be enough motivation to sustain the interest in doing the activity of walking. Walking well is not an awareness for us, it is a mindless activity, at the beginning.

As the toddler becomes a more proficient walker, there is still little interest (or judgment) in being the best at walking. In our social involvement, we hear about being the prettiest or the fastest but not the walk-iest.

It seems that none of us have learned to tie our worth to the ability to walk. Walkers seem satisfied with being able to walk without falling. We don’t even reference ourselves as “walkers” although as we become more aware of BE-ing a “thing” we call ourselves runners, hikers, bikers, surfers…

The awareness of self, being able to do something others can’t do ( like the River versus the Brook), seems to be where boasting happens. The inherent nature of the differences between a river and a brook make the competition of their contribution to the ocean seem unfair.

In boasting, the Brook, is wanting to get the credit that the river gets for exerting the lesser effort. In this case, the boast is a lie.

The Brook is lying to itself about the importance of something it cannot do as well as the River. The irony is how demeaning the boastful expression becomes within the one who makes it. The need to boast magnifies the inability of the Brook to produce.  The focus is on what is not enough – confidence is diminished.

The Brook, instead of boasting, could focus on babbling about how she is sufficient and just brooking along in her own way.

One Thing to Do: Think about something you needed to boast about from your past. Write the incident down and then make an effort to discern how much lasting positive attention was gained by boasting and how much negative reinforcement the moment had on your self-image then and now.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Whole: Better By Monday

Healing is becoming whole.  Such wholeness, …emerges as a self-organizing process that has a natural drive to create harmony, a flexible and adaptive state that is created with integration. – Daniel J. Siegel, MD.  Founding Series Editor, Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology

At the close of the last millennium, the Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB) field was created not as a type of therapy but as a vehicle to inform therapies and practitioners about some “universal discoveries” which provide new insight and understanding about healing and wholeness.

One idea which has been given importance in the IPNB uses the acronym: COAL which stands for being curious, open, accepting and loving. Dr. Siegel wrote, “ Being mindfully aware entails letting go of our propensity to filter ongoing perceptions through the lens of previously existing judgments, or prejudgments, and attempting to be open to whatever arises as it arises.”

Being able to be present and let whatever is going to happen just happen is being in a state of openness which is also a state of letting go (of control). There is a beautiful thing that happens in this state of being – you find out that you can trust yourself.

While you stay open to people and moments with those people, you become more aware of who you are, what you think and what resources you naturally have. The freedom to think your thoughts and pull from your resources happens while you are open and accepting of your experience. You are being true to yourself not controlling how you are seen or what people think of you. The real you will show up.

One Thing To Do: Set down your impression management skills and use COAL in your next conversation. Enjoy how mush easier listening with a curious, open, accepting and loving heart feels.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.


Beauty: Better By Monday

“It’s never been more asked of us to show up as only slices of ourselves in different places.” – Courtney Martin (2015)

Beauty has been a label affixed to many different subjects. Once it was placed on the faces and bodies of only a few individuals then its own meaning changed for some of us. It was altered from something to love, enjoy and/or admire into an ideal which not everyone can attain.

Beauty was reduced from something to be found in everyone into something to be possessed by only the genetically fortunate. Then because a standard of “who is beautiful” was established many of us began changing ourselves to gain access to a type of beauty that we weren’t born with.

The message being sent out to us was that “we too can be more beautiful” but it was only if we achieved a likeness to the standard. Beauty had become a measure of one version of itself and those of us who strive to fit into one measurement begin to feel – less than.

It’s as though someone took Beauty (think of a stained glass window with a thousand different panes) and dropped it onto the floor breaking it. Then removed only a few of the glass panes to show the world something really beautiful but limited in its representation of the whole picture.

A fractured view of beauty, while still something to appreciate, cheats us out of the whole concept of how much more beauty exists within us and others.

One Thing To Do: Look for the beauty in your own face and in your own body. Open up your definition of beauty to include yourself and different versions of what’s beautiful.

Join us at an event on May 5th, 2016 Discovering Your Real Beauty- Inside and Out.

Click Here

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S, LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Vice: Better By Monday

“It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.”

-Abraham Lincoln

Finding some balance between letting our limitations overwhelm us like heavy weights around our ankles versus letting our strengths seem like impenetrable armor is difficult.

When I was young I was taught about the opposites that exist within me at home, in school, and at church. One part of me was my good side the other part was my bad side, in cartoons this was represented by an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.

Later in life I learned to frame the opposite ideas of good and bad differently. I was taught in college to help clients see their strengths and their limitations and that both can be good and bad. The context of how useful the strength could be, in different situations, made it a good or bad thing.

The idea that a personal strength could be a bad thing was a curious concept. How could something good like strength, ever be a bad thing? In an assessment called, The Friendly Style Profile (2004), a strength in excess can become a liability.

An example given in the profile is that a functional quality (or strength) in times of duress can change into a dysfunctional version of itself. A person who is normally careful (functional strength) can become wary (first level of excess) when under distress and can shift into being obsessive (second level of excess) when overwhelmed.

    [Careful > Wary > Obsessive]

Another route to excess: Hopeful >becomes> Disillusioned> becomes> Despairing.

The equation I have come to believe is that what limits us can make us stronger or better, in the right circumstances, and what makes us strong can feel bad, in the wrong circumstances.

One Thing To Do: Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. Write Good at the top of one side and Bad at the top of the other. List all the qualities you believe belong under each title. Then look at how each good thing could become a problem if overused, and look at how each bad thing can become a life lesson.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Your Mishaps Can Be Better By Monday

“Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or the handle.”   –James Russell Lowell, 1819 -1891.

I have often wondered where the phrase, “you can handle it” originated as a reference to managing personal problems. I have no idea if the quote above somehow contributed to the birth of that common phrase but I find it useful as one possible source.

My clients often use personal mistakes to beat themselves up; it’s sometimes destructive and always unnecessary. When we fail to achieve a desired outcome in our lives, whether it is from under preparation, overzealousness, or simple human error, the outcome can become a teacher or a torturer.

The lessons we learn in life may indeed have sharpness to them, but if handled well they can act as a means of cutting away a false reality which brought about the failure in the first place.

Mr. Lowell’s astute quote and observation helps us understand that to turn the knife on your self is itself a grave error. However, to use it to carve away irrational beliefs, as a skilled emotional artist, a transformation from disappointment into success is created. This is what learning from mistakes can be like, where loss is always temporary and being your own best life sculptor is an ongoing opportunity.

One Thing to Do: Learn the equation for The ABC’s of Self-Disturbing by Albert Ellis. Which is: A + B = C. (A is the Activating Event + B is the Belief which can be an Irrational Belief about A. A + B together = C which is the Consequence.) We can cut out the Irrational Beliefs to get a different Consequence.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Your Drive Can Be Better By Monday

Better By MondayA goal is like a vehicle. Maybe you haven’t been driving a beat up, falling apart, gasping and sputtering heap but you want something better than you have.  So, you set a goal or make a resolution to upgrade to a better version – hoping it will enhance your drive.

A dynamic, luxurious and super smooth speedster may take a bigger commitment than you’re ready to make so you have opted for a model year newer than what you have currently. You are smart because you don’t want to get into a super goal with too much torque to handle.

That kind of goal puts self-importance at your fingertips like you’ve never known. A stream lined, proactive goal can take you places you’ve only seen in vacation guides. Beautiful places where you’re in control and you feel confident! Just make sure you feel true to yourself too.

The Lamborghini of goals is tempting but you are more realistic. It doesn’t matter if your goal is one of the best in the world if it simply makes your world better.  A Chevy (goal) may be just what you’re looking for in style, comfort and manageability. A good goal is personal, realistic and attainable and makes you proud when you see yourself in the driver’s seat. You know you will step behind the wheel more, if you like the ride.

One Thing To Do: Drive your goal around this weekend at different speeds. See if a slower speed works better or if cutting the drive time down will help you get in and drive it more often.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, Professional Counseling.

Better By Monday: Songs I don’t want to sing.

Better By MondayI really appreciate Hal and Sidra Stone’s book, Embracing Your Inner Critic, where they explore the internal critical voice. They explain that we all have a radio station in our mind call K –RAZY. It’s the station that we tune into when the other stations aren’t working.

The songs played at K-RAZY are all familiar but we don’t love any of them. We can expand the metaphor a little and say that listening to K-RAZY makes us feel crazy because we remember all the words to the songs that make us feel bad about ourselves.

One of the exercises in the book invites us to start paying attention to the lyrics of the songs played on your personal K-RAZY station. You can even ask yourself a few questions to get started changing your tune.

The following questions are a combination of my own self-awareness techniques and an excerpt from the book in the section called, Where Did Your Inner Critic Come From?

  • What negative thinking might have started in Elementary school?
  • What did a teacher say to you that hurt or embarrassed you?
  • What is the worst thing a friend/classmate said to you?
  • What are the “worst characteristics that a person could have, according to your grade school classmates?”

I remember one of my grade school teachers mocking me after I had asked her for help with a math problem. I stood at her desk next to her as she worked the problems while I watched. I had difficulty understanding how she was able to start and end the equation with the right answer but when I followed the process I never got the right answer? My confidence was shattered. As I walked away from her desk, still confused, she sang out loud for everyone to hear, “Off to the funny farm we go, Ha-Ha, He-He, Ho-Ho…”

It really hurt my feelings after I got home and asked about what a funny farm was – I had assumed it was a cartoon.  I felt stupid when I couldn’t understand math. Then that song replayed in my head! A song about where “crazy” people are taken which had been sung about me and my math skills.

That’s when my K-RAZY station started playing the song – “Math isn’t good for me because it makes me crazy.”

This silly but sad story is an example of how easily a child creates a negative/critical script that can last a lifetime. You may have scripts like this running in your life too. Take some time to remember them by using the questions listed in this article. You can’t change the lyrics into something you love hearing if you don’t make yourself more aware of what you’ve been singing along with since childhood. There are songs with better lyrics waiting to be written.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, EdS, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., L.P.C.

Better By Monday is a blog about one thing you can do, try or practice over the weekend to feel a little bit better by Monday