Practice of the Week
See the Good in Yourself
See the Good in Yourself
"The brain thinks status is crucial to its survival because tens of thousands of years ago it was status that decided whether you got to stay in the tribe, who (or if) you could marry, and generally how secure and happy you were." (Tim Brownson)Rick Hanson on seeing the good in yourself:
From Rick Hanson, Just One Thing. [Order a copy for yourself: HERE.]
There is good in every person—but it's often easier to see in others than in yourself. For example, think about a friend: What do you like about him or her? Including qualities such as sense of humor, fairness, honesty, intelligence, soul, patience, passion, helpfulness, curiosity, determination, talent, spunk, or a good heart.
Seeing these positive characteristics in your friend feels reassuring, comfortable, and hopeful. It's good to recognize what's good in someone.
Each of us is like a mosaic, with lots of lovely tiles, some that are basically neutral, and a few that could use a little — ah — work. It's important to see the whole mosaic. But because of the brains negativity bias, we tend to fixate on what's wrong with ourselves instead of what's right. If you do twenty things in a day and nineteen go fine, what's the one you think about? Probably the one that didn't go so well.
Your brain builds new structures primarily based on what you pay attention to; neurons that fire together, wire together. Focusing on the "bad" tiles in the mosaic you are reinforces an underlying sense of being mediocre, flawed, or less than others. And it blocks the development of the confidence and self-worth that come from recognizing the good tiles. These results of the negativity bias are not fair. But they're sure powerful, and a big reason most of us have feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt; I've had to work with these issues myself.
Knowing your own strengths and virtues, is just a matter of seeing yourself accurately. Then, recognizing the good in yourself, you'll feel better inside, reach out to others with less fear of rejection, and pursue your dreams with more confidence that you'll have success.
Pick one simple good thing about yourself. Maybe you are particularly friendly, open, conscientious, imaginative, warm, perceptive, or steadfast. Be aware of the experience of that positive characteristic. Explore its body sensations, emotional tones, and any attitudes or viewpoints that go with it.
Take a little time to register that you do indeed have this good quality. Let yourself become convinced of it. Look for signs of it for a day or a week -- and feel it when you find it.
Notice any difficulty in accepting that you have this good quality, such as thoughts like But I'm not that way all the time. Or But I have bad parts, too. Try to get on your own side here and see yourself realistically, including your good qualities. Its okay that you don't live from those qualities every minute: that's what it means to be a mosaic; that's what it means to be human (and, indeed, pretty much what it means to be mammal. Or even vertebrate.)
Repeat this process for other strengths or virtues that you have.
Also open to the good things that others recognize in you. Start with a friend, and look at yourself through his or her eyes. What does that person like about you? Or appreciate, enjoy, respect, or admire? If your friend were telling someone else about your good qualities, what might he or she say? Do this again with several other people from different parts -- and perhaps times -- of your life, such as other friends or a family member, partner, teacher, coach, or coworker. Then allow other people's knowing of your good characteristics to become your own. Soften your face and body and mind to take in this knowing of the truth, the whole truth, of your personal mosaic.
Whether it starts with your own recognition of yourself or from other people, let the knowing of good things about you become feelings of worth, confidence, happiness, and peace.
Sense a quiet voice inside you, coming from your own core, firmly and honestly listing some of your good qualities. Listen to it. Let what it's saying sink in. If you like, write down the list and go over it from time to time; you don't have to show it to anyone.
As you go through life, look for examples of your decency, endurance, caring, and other good qualities. When you see these facts, open to feeling good about yourself.
Let these times of feeling good about yourself gradually fill your heart and your days.
Make a list of your good qualities. Then pick one of them and describe how you manifested that quality recently. Tomorrow: Pick another one of the qualities you listed and describe how you have recently manifested it. Repeat each day for five days, selecting a different quality from your list.
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Previous Practice of the Week: "Cultivate Mindfulness"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practice of the Week Index"