blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, self improvement

How To Build Your Self-Worth Through One Simple Act

giving is good – taking is great

klimkin via pixabay

Give without remembering and receive without forgetting.
Elizabeth Bibesco

Would you rather give something or get something?

You’ve heard that it’s better to give than to receive. The idea of giving is central to most religions around the world. Winston Churchill supposedly said “you make a living by what you give, but you make a life by what you give.”

If you’re the lucky recipient of a gift, how do you receive it? Get it wrong, and the whole exchange is soured.

You’d think it was easy, but gift giving is often a fraught affair, hedged round with expectations and social norms. Some people don’t know how to give; others never learn to give. Even when we’re following that golden rule, it can still fail.

During a writing group meeting, I once complimented a writer on her dialogue, which flowed on the page with the polished elegance that comes from a finely tuned ear. She smiled uncertainly and protested that it wasn’t that good – at all.

So we both felt bad. She felt undeserving of something good, and I felt as though she had thrown my words away. What made her react like that?

Given But Not Taken

Gracious acceptance is an art – an art which most never bother to cultivate. We think that we have to learn how to give, but we forget about accepting things, which can be much harder than giving…. Accepting another person’s gift is allowing him to express his feelings for you.
Alexander McCall Smith

I’m certain that my writer friend would never throw a physical gift on the ground and walk away. But in refusing to accept the intangible gift of praise, she essentially did just that.

When parents and caregivers teach us to be polite, they leave out the most important skill in receiving. Politeness hides many a scowl of anger and disappointment, and its lack of authenticity is obvious even when cloaked in smiles and happy words.

The art of receiving a genuine gift (or even a fake one) is in understanding that when a gift is given it must also be taken. Both sides are necessary.

Learn to give without strings. A gift with conditions is at best a loan of something the giver still controls.

The art of receiving a gift is first in feeling worthy enough to be given something, and second in expressing genuine gratitude.

When given a compliment, are you:

  1. embarrassed because you don’t deserve praise,
  2. suspicious of their motives because they must want something from you, or
  3. angry because they’re clearly mocking you?

These emotions have their roots in old programming and/or traumatic events that you’re holding on to in the present.

Think back to the last such encounter and examine your feelings. There’s often an old memory attached that still shapes your behaviour in the present. Perhaps you were taught that taking things was selfish, accepting praise was a sin of pride, or simply that compliments weren’t for people like you.

To rewrite this script, here is one thing you need to accept about yourself.

You are worthy.

You are good enough, so is your work, and you deserve the rewards you receive. Whether it’s a yummy cupcake, a well-written report, or a project delivered on budget and on time. So accept that compliment. If you refuse it either outright or by deflection, you hurt both parties.

As interactions become more transactional and less genuine, dysfunctional gifting can be seen as a microcosm of a wider problem. When your gift is covertly rejected, you become cynical. There seems no point in giving, so you restrict yourself to exchanges that directly benefit you in some tangible way. When you refuse a gift, you replay an old script that says you are unworthy. You add to your burden of self-doubt.

The donor is hurt because rejection robs them of the pleasure of giving. You hurt yourself because you reinforce old lies that whisper you shouldn’t have nice things. And an exchange that could start to heal those wounds is wasted.

Take The Box

After all, you must have a capacity to receive, or even omnipotence can’t give.
CS Lewis

It’s easy to fall into a trap of feeling under-appreciated while simultaneously refusing credit where it’s due. Hidden under the guise of humility or self-deprecation, this form of self-sabotage eats away at self-esteem unseen. It’s time to find a better way.

Next time someone says something good about you, remember you’re being offered a gift. Don’t walk away or bad-mouth it. You know how you’d like your gift to be received. Make eye contact, smile and thank the giver sincerely. There’s no need to explain more. Don’t follow up with how hard you found it, or minimise your efforts. Don’t give away the gift by saying anyone could have done it.

There is no giving without taking. They complement and define each other.

Stay in the moment and acknowledge the gift. When you do that, you honour both the giver and receiver. That’s the gift you give back.

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blog, Pat Aitcheson writes

What getting Kinky* can teach us

(*Boots, that is)

Screen Shot 2018-01-26 at 16.08.25

Film and music and theatre and books. All are entertainment, escapism often, a way to leave the humdrum real world behind and just have some fun. There’s no need to look for a deeper meaning.

But the stories that stay with us often have layers, some essential truth that we can take away and think about. It might not be the same lesson for everyone. In fact the very best of them have more than one idea buried in the glitz and action. They stand up to close or repeated inspection.

To a confirmed sci-fi fan like me, the more outlandish the concept, the more amazing the special effects, the better. Theatre is the opposite. The story unfolds in front of you with actual people in real time. Theatre is concrete and immediate.

Still, it’s good to broaden your horizons. So when I had the chance to see Kinky Boots (KB) at the Adelphi Theatre London recently, I went. I knew almost nothing about the story and hadn’t seen the film. Musicals aren’t really my thing.

I did not expect to have so much fun.

The cast sparkled with energy, aided by high kicking drag queens, amazing costumes, and more glitter than you could shake a six-inch stiletto at. Simon-Anthony Rhoden dominated the stage as Lola, and there was plenty of humour as well as spectacular dance numbers.

KB had many lessons that apply to commerce and creatives alike.

Find your niche.
Discover what your customer wants, and supply it.
Innovate when necessary.
Ignore haters and critics.
Play to your strengths.
It’s okay to have fun with your work.

Be yourself

Western culture prizes individualism above all. We’re told to be true to ourselves. Then we discover that we can only be accepted if we are true to a prescribed version of ourselves. This edited self discards or ignores large parts of who we are; sometimes, the biggest and/or best parts.

This editing usually begins at home, and continues in wider society.

KB explores disappointing our parents, whether by actively escaping their chosen path, like Lola and his father, or passively following someone else’s path, like Charlie and Nicola. Neither is a route to happiness or authenticity.

If you don’t build your own dream, someone will hire you to build theirs.

In KB the road to acceptance is fraught with detours and wrong turnings, but it’s a journey worth making. What do we long for, if not to be seen as we truly are and loved in spite of our scars? That’s the place we call home. Lola finds a home in the drag scene, but Charlie is caught between two versions of himself, and feels like a misfit in both.

We must make peace with our past in the present, before we can truly claim our future. That means accepting the ugly and painful truths as well as the pretty ones.

It means accepting your own self first as a whole person made of both light and shade.

The truth is out there

It’s easy to play safe, to stay in the middle of the herd and pretend we don’t carry a burning desire buried in our heart. What if people saw? They’d mock and laugh and we’d never live it down. Fear of failure and ridicule stops us from pursuing our dreams in case it doesn’t work out. Charlie must brave the fashion critics of Milan with something new. Lola must risk stepping outside the persona that has sheltered her for so long.

But what if it did?

There is certainly risk in pushing the limits of your comfort zone. Too many unknown monsters and well-meaning naysayers can have you scurrying back to what is familiar, even if it is slowly strangling the real you.

There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.
Morpheus in The Matrix

It takes courage to admit you were wrong about yourself, change direction, and strike out from the herd. Charlie and Lola both face their own dark moments before they reach the triumphant final number.

The big prizes – authenticity, self-actualisation, happiness even – are all out there, waiting for you to claim your share. So dust off that dream and refuse to play small in life. Let your heart set the goal, and use your head to plan the route. You were meant for more.

Find out just how fabulous you can be.
Sequins and feathers optional – but in the spirit of Kinky Boots, you may as well look good while you’re killing it.

Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Risk being seen in all your glory.
Jim Carrey