Learning to Live With (and Love) Yourself

Mary thinks she’d be happy if she could just change her weight, her looks and her job. Sean believes that he’s an okay person except for certain personality traits, such as anxiety, impatience and his quick temper. Yolanda’s shelves are bulging with self-improvement books; she’s read them all, and she still hates herself.

Who among us doesn’t believe that with a little tweaking, we could be just right—self-realized, self-actualized and self-helped to “just” short of perfection? But, the problem for many is that all the books, self-improvement tips and positive affirmations don’t seem to make us any happier. Worst of all, the minute we “fix” one ugly piece of ourselves, another nasty monster rears its head and starts screaming for attention.

When does self-help become self-hell? What would happen if we started realizing how wonderful we are already?

As the pioneering psychologist Carl Rogers once wrote, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

“Believing that something is wrong with us is a deep and tenacious suffering,” writes Tara Brach, in her book, Radical Acceptance. “The more we anxiously tell ourselves stories about how we might fail or what is wrong with us or with others, the more we deepen the grooves—the neural pathways—that generate feelings of deficiency.” She lists common ways people try to manage this pain of inadequacy:

  • Anxiously embarking on one self-improvement project after another.
  • Holding back and playing it safe rather than risking failure.
  • Withdrawing from our experience of the present moment.
  • Keeping busy.
  • Becoming our own worst critics.
  • Focusing on other people’s faults.

“Convinced that we are not good enough, we can never relax,” Brach writes. “We stay on guard, monitoring ourselves for shortcomings. When we inevitably find them, we feel even more insecure and undeserving. We have to try even harder.”

Accepting yourself does not mean self-indulgence or being passive. Rather it means turning off the shameful, negative, self-loathing tapes within you and just relax.

The blaring voices of our culture certainly don’t help, with promises that buying something, owning something, achieving something will make us better people, that success is measured by looks, wealth or possessions. A healthier life finds deeper meaning and greater satisfaction in self-love, compassion, intuition, taking responsibility and forgiveness (particularly of oneself).

Sometimes it is our so-called faults that can actually lead us to a healthier life. Pioneering psychologist Carl Jung called it our “shadow side,” that part in all of us we are ashamed of and that we often reject. Understanding and accepting that shadow side can lead to enormous freedom and self-acceptance.

Science and research has revealed much about what we can and cannot change about ourselves, according to Martin Seligman, Ph.D., author and Director of Clinical Training in Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. “Some of what does change is under your control, and some is not,” he writes in his book, What You Can Change and What You Can’t: The Complete Guide to Self-Improvement.

Seligman lists some characteristics that are easier to change, such as everyday anxiety, specific phobias, panic, anger and certain beliefs about life. He advises people to discard the notion of changing that which hurts the most (for example, your extra weight) and instead concentrating on those parts of yourself that will respond most successfully to your efforts to change them (for example, your shyness or impatience with your spouse).

In the end, all the energy we put out to change ourselves may just take us back to where we started—to ourselves. And if we can truly accept ourselves as we are, that’s the best place to be.

Five Ways to Love Yourself

1. Stop criticizing yourself. When you criticize yourself, your changes are negative. When you approve of yourself, your changes are positive.

2. Be gentle with yourself. Praise yourself and support yourself. Have compassion for yourself.

3. Love your negatives. Acknowledge that they fulfilled a need and now you don’t need them anymore.

4. Take care of yourself. Take care of your body in ways that please you.

5. Do it now. Don’t wait until you get well, or get sick, or lose the weight or get the new job or the new relationship. Begin now. And do the best you can.

—from Heal Your Life by Louise Hay

Yellow Brick Road Coaching, LLC used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

NEW Webinar! “Risk Living Authentically: Find the Courage to Be the Real YOU!”

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Risk-Taking: The Courage to be Authentic

What could be riskier than diving out of an airplane or climbing a glacier-covered peak or accelerating a race car into a curve at the Indy 500?

For one person it might be quitting a secure, well-paying job to go back to school. For another, it could be deciding to leave a marriage after 20 years or reporting that the company they work for is endangering the environment or people’s lives.

Though it may not appear so at first glance, psychological risks that summon us to put our personal values and beliefs on the line may ultimately feel more dangerous than those of physical derring-do. Yet, these are the challenges we are asked to face time and again if we are to continue to grow as individuals. Each time we take a risk that contributes to our personal growth or enhances our self-esteem or enriches our lives, we make the choice to stretch ourselves, knowing there are no guarantees and chancing possible failure.

Growth-producing risks generally fall into three categories.

Self-Improvement Risks

These are the risks you take when you want to get ahead, learn something new or make a distant dream a reality. You take on the venture with hopes of enriching your life. Maybe you want to change careers, or take singing lessons, or learn to speak French. On one side of the risk is the person you are and, on the other, the person you want to become.

Commitment Risks

All commitment risks have emotional stakes whether you pledge yourself to a person or a relationship or to a cause, a career, or a value. According to Joseph Ilardo, author of Risk-Taking for Personal Growth, if you avoid making emotional commitments, you all but guarantee that your emotional growth will be stunted.

Self-Disclosure Risks

Communication risks fall into the category of self-disclosure. Anytime you tell someone how you really feel you’re taking the chance of self-disclosure. When you open up to others and reveal who you really are, how you feel and what you want and need, you make yourself vulnerable. It is impossible to be assertive without doing so.

All risks carry with them the possibility of failure. Often significant sacrifices must be made before any real benefits are realized. Routines may have to change; the familiar may have to be released. You may be rejected or humiliated. In the case of commitment to a value, personal safety may be in danger. Consider those who stand up for what they believe in or put their own health and well-being on the line in the name of a cause. Challenging yourself is often the key to personal growth and development.

Are you a risk-taker? Ask yourself the following questions:

• Does every decision involve endless debates with yourself?

• Do you accept less than what you should because you’re afraid to speak up?

• Do you have difficulty making emotional commitments to others?

• Do you make up excuses that stop you from taking advantage of opportunities for self-improvement?

• Does fear of disapproval keep you from doing what you’d really like to do?

A “yes” answer to these questions indicates a reluctance to take risks, which may mean you tend to play it safe and reject change.

Consider this: to fulfill your potential, to discover your real self and live an authentic life, you must take risks. And while security may appear to be the absence of change, the only genuine security lies in taking risks.

NEW Webinar! “Risk Living Authentically: Find the Courage to Be the Real YOU!”

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Yellow Brick Road Coaching, LLC used under license, ©Claire Communications
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Authentic. It’s a word we hear a lot – yet, it’s a concept that many of us struggle to exemplify.

To state it plainly: authenticity means being true to yourself. And, sometimes that’s easier said than done.

We’ve all had moments of inauthenticity. Maybe you had to compromise a personal belief in order to keep your job because it’s easier to nod our heads in agreement, so we feel as though we fit in.

Being authentic means being vulnerable. It means loving yourself, regardless of whether someone likes what you’re wearing or what you have to say…or you. Being authentic means believing you are worthy of love, kindness, and acceptance, just as you are.

Like a magnet, authenticity attracts. Authentic people have a way of making others feel relaxed, happy and safe. Here are five tools to help you be your most authentic self, even under the most stressful circumstances:

  1. Forgive yourself for past moments of inauthenticity. Learn from your mistakes and determine what you can do differently in similar situations that may occur.
  2. Practice being incredibly self-aware. The first step toward self-improvement starts with observation. When you meet new people or try new things, take a moment to note how you act in that situation.
  3. In addition to being self-aware, be self-reflective. To be authentic, you must know who you are and what you want. Self-reflection is a perfect time to think back to those moments of self-awareness and see when you felt most comfortable or when you felt as though you were playing a role.
  4. Be open to growth and change. Sometimes being the most authentic version of yourself, means leaving behind the person others thought you were.
  5. Have the courage to say no (and yes, on occasion!). Being authentic means saying no to things you really don’t want to do, like going camping with a friend or to the mall with your spouse. It also means, being open to new and appealing experiences that come your way.

Remember, at the heart of authenticity, is the courage to be you.

How are you being authentic with yourself?

Stay tuned for details on how to register for my next webinar “Risk Living Authentically: Find the Courage to Be the Real YOU!”

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When faced with difficult situations do you rise to the challenge or raise the white flag of surrender? Are you more like the famed engine from the classic children’s story, The Little Engine That Could, telling yourself, “I think I can, I think I can! I think I can!!”? Or do you find yourself stuck at the station, doubting your abilities to face life’s challenges?

According to the American Psychological Association, self-efficacy is “the confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s own motivation, behavior, and social environment.” Self-efficacy plays a big role in our self-image and belief that we can accomplish our life’s goals. It’s the fuel in our engine to make us believe that we can do it, and take the steps to get there.

People with high self-efficacy tend to be highly motivated because they’re focused on positive outcomes, are passionate about their activities, and easily rebound from setbacks. It’s a necessary characteristic for success.

How do you build self-efficacy within? Psychologist Albert Bandura identified 4 key sources of self-efficacy to help you keep your momentum going when facing life’s challenges.

  1. Mastery. Achieving mastery in a situation influences our perception of our skills and potential. Achieving success builds upon our sense of confidence.
  2. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. There’s great value in watching others succeed when facing difficult situations. We believe that, if they can do it, so can we and by imitating their behavior we increase our chances of success when facing similar situations.
  3. Personal cheerleader. Positive feedback and encouragement from others help us overcome our insecurities and refocus our attention on putting our best effort forward. Who’s your biggest cheerleader?
  4. Rescue remedy. Our emotional and physical reactions to situations influence how confident we feel about our abilities in different situations. By reducing stress and improving our emotional state we enhance our self-efficacy.

The next time you find yourself doubting your abilities remember the Little Engine That Could, add some high-octane fuel to your tank, and tell yourself, “I KNOW I can, I KNOW I can!”

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Quiz: Are You Sabotaging Yourself?

Habitual lateness. Extreme disorganization. Not following up sales leads. Self-sabotage takes on a variety of guises and affects people of all ages, professions and economic levels. But it always leads to our not living the life we want for ourselves. Take this Self-Quiz to see whether you might be working against yourself in some areas.

1. It takes me at least a half hour to locate a document I need to send to someone.

2. I can be indecisive and fearful; as a result, chances often pass me by.

3. I tend to start projects with great gusto, but have great difficulty finishing them.

4. My financial situation is chronically chaotic.

5. My actions often jeopardize my relationships, my job and/or my financial stability.

6. I worry a lot about what others think of me.

7. I tend to give in to compulsive behaviors to overeat or partake excessively in unhealthy substances or activities.

8. I seem to be always struggling.

9. I’ve been told I have a problem expressing anger appropriately.

10. I often put off the things I need and want to do. Procrastination and reliability are problems for me.

11. I’m still not living the life I truly want, and I’m starting to lose hope that I ever will.

12. When I really want to do something, I frequently have the thought that I can’t or shouldn’t do it.

13. My relationships tend to eventually fall apart, or I stay in unhealthy relationships.

14. When I think about working out, I immediately start thinking about all the other things I “should” be doing instead. Exercise rarely wins.

15. I’m often late to work and late with assignments; this has hurt my career.

16. I avoid confrontation and/or fawn over others in order to be liked and win their favor.

17. I repeatedly make self-deprecating, belittling comments about myself.

18. I know I have the potential to do more with my life, if I could just get out of my own way.

Self-defeating behaviors often mask a fear of change and growing; when we deliberately hamper our own efforts, we get to avoid the knowledge that our life is up to us, and that we do, indeed, get to choose. Just imagine the life we could be having if we put as much energy and creativity into manifesting our goals as we do avoiding them. It’s not easy to change self-sabotaging patterns, but with time and practice—and a good dose of self-love—it is possible to end a self-defeating cycle and live the life we truly want for ourselves.

Yellow Brick Road Coaching, LLC used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications
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Procrastination—Everyone Talks About It, but Nobody Does Anything

Imagine the space this article fills as blank.

Imagine the time and energy it might have taken someone who procrastinates to:

1) think about doing the article,

2) put it on a list of “to dos,”

3) talk about doing it,

4) promise to start it tomorrow,

5) promise to definitely start it tomorrow,

6) promise…well, you get the point.

As the deadline for the article draws near (it’s midnight the night before the article is due), imagine the stress the writer must feel as he or she brews a pot of coffee and sets up for a couple of hours to research the topic, organize the information, create an outline, come up with a dynamite opening line, write the article, rewrite the article, rewrite it again, print it out and rewrite it one more time. And, of course, the whole time he or she is beating their self-up for waiting so long to start and telling their self they’re not good at this job anyway and the article will be a bust.

This is procrastination in full, weedy flower. Delay. Broken promises and unfulfilled expectations. Feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Worry. Fear. Stress. Overwork and probably not as good an end product as the writer would have produced if they’d tackled the job in a timely, reasonable, professional manner.

Procrastination isn’t good for anyone, anytime. So why do so many do it? Not just around such matters as filing income tax and completing holiday shopping, but with everyday tasks such as cleaning off the desk or straightening up the garage or starting a project at work.

The more difficult, inconvenient or scary the task is perceived to be, the more procrastinators procrastinate. They come up with semi-convincing self-talk that makes the delay appear reasonable, but in the end it’s a self-defeating behavior that causes all sorts of problems, not the least of which is stress.

Following are a few remedies to overcome procrastination:

1. Set goals. Decide what you want and what needs to happen to get it. Be specific. Create a realistic timetable.

2. Commit. Make a contract with yourself. Tell a friend or co-worker or family member your plan. Ask for help when you need it.

3. Set priorities. Make a list of things that need to be done in order of their importance.

4. Get organized. Have the right tools and equipment to do the job. Make lists. Keep a schedule.

5. Think small. Don’t let the whole of the project overwhelm you. Stay in the present and do what you are doing.

6. Break tasks into parts. The “Swiss cheese” approach to getting any major project completed is to break it apart and work on one piece at a time. Reward yourself when you complete one step.

7. Use positive self-talk.

8. Replace excuses with rational, realistic thinking.

9. Realize there is no such thing as perfection. Begin the thing knowing it can never be done perfectly. You’ll do your best. You always do.

10. Reward yourself. Often and generously for accomplishing the smallest of tasks. Celebrate. Pat yourself on the back. Enjoy your accomplishment.

Like many other self-defeating behaviors, procrastination can be overcome. The place to begin is where you are.

The time to start is now. Be sure to register for my upcoming webinar/workshop: Overcoming Procrastination: The Art of Getting Things Done Now!


Yellow Brick Road Coaching, LLC used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications


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It’s Okay to Be Selfish in Order to Become Selfless

Jill was running late. She only had a little time on her lunch break to run an errand for her significant other before returning to work to finish a big project she’d delayed until the last-minute.

She parked outside the post office. When she returned, her car was pinned in by another vehicle and she couldn’t get out. She sat on the curb and waited. Twenty minutes later an elderly man returned to the car blocking Jill’s. Jill shouted “Hello!” but the man got in his car and pulled away without saying a word.

Jill returned late to the office. She knew she’d have to work overtime to finish her work. She stared out the window cursing herself for procrastinating on this project. She looked at the files on her desk, feeling overwhelmed by all the work ahead of her. Still, she couldn’t manage to get started. She felt angry.

Then the phone rang. It was Jill’s significant other asking if she’d run the errands she’d asked. She shared what had happened that day. Her significant other empathized then made her promise to do one thing, no matter how small, for herself: order a healthy meal, take a walk in the park, or listen to some music before she started working. Jill agreed. She thanked her for understanding, for her kind advice, and hung up. She looked at the files and thought, “I can handle this, but first…” She smiled, grabbed her coat and headed out for a walk. Her significant other was right, she deserved to take better care of herself, and she resolved to do just that.

We all do it – We say ‘yes’ to others and ‘no’ to ourselves, add too many things to our calendar, neglect our mind, body and spirit, and beat ourselves up over our own limitations and mistakes.

How about you? Are you taking better care of others than yourself? Do you put others’ needs ahead of your own and push your desires off to ‘another day’? Do you burn the candle at both ends to the point where you feel you have nothing left to give?

This is a common problem we all face. But the fact is that when we take care of ourselves, our work becomes easier and less stressful, we are more content, and we feel happier, healthier, and are more engaged in life. And here’s the kicker – it doesn’t take much to achieve this feeling. It simply requires a small amount of consistent ‘me time’ each day. It could be as simple as a 20-minute meditation, a 30-minute workout, or some quiet time to read your favorite book. Out of 24 hours in a day – 1,440 minutes – can you commit to sometime just for yourself?

You deserve as much care and compassion for yourself that you show to the people in your life. What one action of self-care will you take for yourself today?

Learn more about my upcoming workshop on January 30th: Lighting Your Fire: Sparking Your Inner Motivation to Achieve Your Goals!

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What Do You Want?

“Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.” ~ Einstein.

Some people have clarity of purpose. You can see it in their behavior, attitude, and results. But for others (you may know someone like this), they have nothing more than a fuzzy idea of what they want for today, tomorrow or next week.

Many people struggle to come up with a coherent answer when they are asked the big question: What do you really want out of your life, long-term?

Do you know what you want?

Some standard responses include: “I’m not sure,” or, “I live for today and let tomorrow take care of itself.” Some people have a restrained version of their ambitions because they are afraid to think too big, as they may fail or be criticized.

If Einstein is right, then that’s exactly what they will experience: uncertainty, random results and unfulfilled aspirations.

It’s often a struggle to take initiative and have enthusiasm for our goals if we’ve lost touch with the life we really want to live. Here are several tricks to help you get back in touch with the life you want for your life.

1. Heal the past. It’s tough to move ahead when you’re anchored to the past. Letting go of the old, untrue stories we tell ourselves and others is the key that can release us from our limiting beliefs. Healing the past acts as a springboard for releasing ourselves to pursue a meaningful future.

2. Know thyself. Taking a self-inventory of our skills, abilities and interests rekindles our enthusiasm for the desires we may have forgotten. It helps us confirm and/or rediscover our true avocation.

3. Be bold in thinking, not hasty in action. If hasty decisions or thinking small got you to where you are now perhaps it’s time for a change. Maybe it’s a total about face – leaving a career or relationship for something new. Or maybe it’s just re-imagining your current situation. For example, if you’re a journalist, instead of quitting writing try your hand at a novel. Or if you love to cook, take cooking classes and consider catering or working as a chef.

We all get to choose our own reality; self-assurance vs. uncertainty, intentional effort vs. random results, and contentment over our accomplishments vs. unfulfilled aspirations.

Facing the past, getting to know yourself, and taking action can feel unfamiliar and even a bit scary at first. But once you make the effort, you’ll find clarity and discover what it is you really want. By doing so, as Einstein suggests, the universe will respond in kind.

What reality do you want for your life?

Learn more about my upcoming workshop Lighting Your Fire: Sparking Your Inner Motivation to Achieve Your Goals!

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What Motivates You?

In the movie Cast Away Tom Hanks’ character, Chuck Noland, is marooned on an isolated island. He manages to stay alive sleeping in a cave, and eating raw fish and coconuts. For three long years he deals with emotional ups and downs, multiple injuries, the blistering sun, and terrible storms.

With rescue more unlikely with each passing day, why did Chuck Noland choose survival? He could have just given up. But Chuck persevered because of his desire to see his fiancé again. That’s the drive that kept him alive.

While few of us will ever be faced with such extreme survival situations, we do have one thing in common – we’re all motivated to do what it takes to get what we want if we want it bad enough. Whether that’s to be reunited with a loved one, getting that job promotion, or satisfying that craving for an ice cream sundae, we instinctively set our eyes on the goal and take the steps necessary to get there.

What is Motivation?

Motivation is that driving force that initiates and pushes us to take action in order to achieve something. Often times it feels instinctive, internally driven, like there is something inside of us pushing us to move forward.

In his book, Drive, author Daniel Pink suggests three elements that drive us to do our best work:

This is the urge to be self-directed. We do the work because we’re engaged, not because we’re told to. Self-directed people have buy-in to the bigger purpose.

It’s human nature to want to be better at doing things. Take playing guitar for example. For most, there is no recording contract in our future. We do it for fun and the challenge and satisfaction of improving our skill and technique.

Connecting to a cause bigger than ourselves fuels our deepest motivations. People want to believe in what they do and who they’re doing it for.

On the island, Chuck was self-directed, he needed to master skills to survive, and his purpose was to see his fiancé again.

What’s your reason and desire for keeping on track with your goals? What concrete steps are willing to take right now to improve your autonomy, mastery or purpose?

Watch for details on my upcoming workshop Lighting Your Fire: Sparking Your Inner Motivation to Achieve Your Goals!

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The Importance of Empathy

The holidays are here! No doubt, shopping is taking up the majority of your free time. Toys, clothes, gaming systems, TVs, speakers, and more stuff are getting crossed off your list.

Did you know that there may be a scientific reason for your love of giving?

Following two studies, scientists recently suggested that our brains actually encourage us to act more like Buddy the Elf and less like the Grinch.

In the first study, researchers sought to identify connections between kind behavior and brain activity; while, in the other, scientists reduced activity in areas of the brain associated with impulse control, to determine if a person’s empathetic actions were altered. At the end of both studies, researchers concluded that empathy and generosity guide human behavior more than selfishness.

Empathy, not to be confused with sympathy, is walking a mile in another person’s shoes. In order to be empathetic, you must actively engage with a person’s emotional experience, opening yourself up to the vulnerability of your own emotions. Practicing empathy will help you increase and solidify your social connections, as well as cultivate your understanding of others.

Here are a few ways to develop your sense of empathy:

Validate Others’ Emotions

Acknowledging how another person feels can go a long way. It lets a person know that what they feel is real, that it’s okay to have these feelings, and gives them a safe space to discuss what’s going on in their life – whether good or bad.

Be Comfortable Sitting in Silence

Many people feel awkward when they sit in silence with another person, especially since our society constantly tries to fill the silence with games, noises, and other distractions. In order to become more empathetic, find your comfort level with silence. When you are speaking with another person who is having difficulty finding the words, silence can create a space for the person to think for a moment.

Meditate on Compassion

A University of Wisconsin-Madison study found that we can rewire our brains to be more empathetic through compassion meditation, which has you wish good things for others during your practice.

Spend Time Helping Other People

Volunteering increases empathy, which in turn increases life satisfaction. Enhancing the lives of others helps us to keep the well-being of all people in the front of our minds.

Be an Active Listener

Active listening requires listening to each word, recognizing the emotions behind the words, and providing constructive feedback, whereas passive listening allows a person to “hear” and react on cue. Active listening encourages us to tune in, thus allowing for deeper connections. The more you practice, the better you will be able to read a person’s emotions.

How do you practice empathy in your daily life?

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