The Rx for Imposter Syndrome

Dee:  Because I am inspired by other people’s writings and teachings, I share them with you and hope you receive inspiration as well.  I add my two-cents worth by sharing how these teachings have affected me in my life in recovery and spirituality… 

The Rx for Imposter Syndrome 

By Melissa Eisler

Have you ever felt like you weren’t deserving of your successes in life? Maybe there is a little nagging voice inside you that says you’re not good enough or qualified enough for the job promotions, the high praises, or the awards that you’ve received. And maybe it doesn’t add up because you have the schooling, experience, and talent as evidence for your competence, but you are often dismissing your achievements on luck, timing, or a result of deceiving others into thinking you are more qualified than you think you  are.

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If you can’t seem to shake the feeling that you’re a fraud of your own achievements, you may be experiencing the crippling effects of what is commonly called imposter syndrome. While it is not considered an official diagnosis, imposter syndrome is acknowledged among mental health professionals for its prevalence and the stress, anxiety, and/or depression it can cause. 

People who suffer from this syndrome live in constant fear that they will be exposed for being unqualified or fake. It can take different forms, but here are some common signs: 

•Having perfectionism
•Overworking yourself
•Undermining your achievements
•Discounting praise 

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Dee:  For me, I just had minimal self-worth and even less self-esteem.  Yes, the “imposter syndrome” played heavy in my life.  How could it not?  From the moment we’re born we are exposed, inundated, smothered by outside influences that don’t empower our highest selves.  We are led to compare, compare, compare ourselves with those around us in our society.  With our peers at school, with our co-workers, with our friends and family.  Sad, huh?

So when the stress and anxiety comes, so do the above bullet-points.  All of them!  And then the alcoholism…

The good news is that you can overcome it! You can train yourself to quickly identify it, manage it, and beat it. Here’s how …

1. Recognize Your Imposter Syndrome 

The first step is to become aware of your thoughts and feelings. The next time someone gives you a promotion, praise, or award, listen to your internal dialogue and how it makes you feel. Oftentimes, people who suffer with imposter syndrome undermine their achievements and discount praise that’s aimed their way. 

It’s important to note that just because you feel like a fraud, doesn’t mean that you are a fraud. Separating feelings from facts allows you to see the truth. Start shining a light on that little nagging voice and recognize it for what it is: Imposter syndrome.  

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Dee:  I didn’t even have a ray of light, no light at the end of the tunnel, no nothing until I finally got sober.  For decades I had no light, no hope, no purpose, no reason for living even though I was one of those with schooling, experience, and talent as evidence for my competence.  But I lacked confidence and thought more of what you thought of me than what I thought of myself. 

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So what happened?  I finally hit my bottom of escaping in my alcoholism.  I couldn’t go on this way any longer…and I got caught.  Actually, my Higher Power (that I didn’t even know I had at the time) said it was time to make an intervention and start my new journey.  It all started in a treatment program for alcoholism.

2. Share Your Thoughts and Feelings 

You may be feeling shame about your imposter syndrome, and that can keep you from sharing your feelings. However, knowing there’s a name for your feelings and that you are not alone can be incredibly liberating, so share your feelings of self-doubt and self-worth with your spouse, a friend, a therapist, a mentor, or a life coach. When you confide in someone about your negative self-assessment, it will bring you one step closer to overcoming imposter syndrome.  

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Dee:  When I found myself in the abyss of my alcoholism, I pled with my husband to help me, to intervene, put me away, lock me away.  But he didn’t.  He knew that unless I made the change, made the surrender, admit my helplessness, it wouldn’t do any good.

And, YES, I felt terribly alone.  Didn’t everybody drink the way I did?  But why did they always seem so happy and productive?  I was too ashamed, guild-ridden, embarrassed and humiliated to share my story  with anybody.

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3. Know When It’s OK to Feel This Way 

Sometimes having feelings of inadequacy can be a normal reaction. For example, if you are changing jobs or are the first minority in your workplace, it’s only natural that you’d sometimes feel like you don’t fit in. Don’t attach these feelings to your self-worth or see them as a sign of your incompetence; accept them as normal in response to being an outsider. 

Dee:  As you have noticed, my story isn’t just about the “imposter syndrome” for me.  A huge driving force in my story, along with the “imposter syndrome” was my alcoholism.  In all honesty, even though my own dad’s passing at a young age was partially due to his alcoholism, I didn’t know anything about the disease.  Not until I entered a 28-day treatment program for alcoholism.

But my feelings of inadequacy and not fitting in were prevalent way before my drinking got out of control.  I was always very self-conscious.  I never felt like I really fit in…anywhere…and just hoped I could “fake  it ’til I make it”.  

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Having worked the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous numerous times with many trusted sponsors and women, I have found that my life as far as I can remember was fear-based.  Why?  I don’t know the specifics and it doesn’t much matter at this point, except for that I realize it, accept it, thank it for coming, and encourage it to leave.  With this knowledge, acceptance, and yearning to live differently today, my life has become freer.  I can finally feel comfortable in my own skin and value my opinion about myself more than your opinion of me.  That’s huge! 

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4. Reframe Your Thinking 

Once you’ve become aware of your imposter syndrome, shared it with others, and separated when having those feelings are normal, the next step is to start working with your thinking. When a situation triggers your imposter syndrome, first reward yourself for catching it and then shift your thoughts to a more  positive perspective. 

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For example, if the thought of “I don’t deserve this compliment” pops into mind, start by congratulating yourself for recognizing your imposter syndrome. Then shift your thoughts to something like, “I feel undeserving of this compliment right now. Perhaps that’s my imposter syndrome talking. I would like to learn how to better accept praise.” 

Baby steps are key here! You don’t want to go from “I am under-qualified for this position” to “I am overqualified for this position.” You will reject that belief in a heartbeat as completely untrue because it is too drastic of a mind shift. Instead, try something more manageable: “I may feel under-qualified for this position, but everyone who starts something new feels insecure at the beginning.”  

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Dee:  Yes!  Turn whatever negative thoughts come to mind into positives.  I believe that everything happens for a reason.  Not to see us fail, but to help us succeed…to be our best selves!  If we don’t experience those tough thoughts about ourselves and turn them into positive, nurturing mind-sets, we shall not succeed.  Learn from what your Higher Power puts on your plate in a positive and nurturing way. 

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5. Accept Praise Gracefully 

In addition to reframing your mindset, it’s also helpful to learn how to receive compliments, awards, promotions, high praise, and anything else positive aimed at you, gracefully. Once you start becoming aware of how you negatively respond to these things, it’s time to break the cycle of continually seeking and then dismissing validation outside of yourself.  

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To do this, set an intention to learn how to transform your reaction and express gratitude. Try a simple “Thank you” the next time you are complimented. You’ll notice it feels better for not only you, but for everyone else around you, too. 

Dee:  In our society we are taught that “more is better”.  So not true.  And that applies to speaking.  Don’t go on and on when asked a question.  A simple “yes” or “no” will suffice without a long, drawn-out excuse or rationalization.  No one really gives a shit anyway.

And once you start to peel the layers off the onion, which is yourself, you will notice that you can start forgiving, accepting, and even loving that person you are.  You are a special and unique gift who was created with assets that no other human being on the planet has.  Be proud of who you are.  Be proud of being human.  And then share your gift! 

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6. Manage Your Perfectionism 

Many people with imposter syndrome struggle with perfectionism, often obsessing over details and fearing that if they aren’t perfect, they will soon be discovered as a fraud. There are healthy levels of perfectionism—when you use it as a motivational force to excel and commit to high standards. And then there are unhealthy levels—which cause obsession and fear. People who have a healthy sense of perfection don’t let their mistakes weigh them down nor define who they are. 

In essence, do a great job when it matters most and let go of things out of your control. When an inevitable mistake happens, forgive yourself and move on.  

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Dee:  Today I consider my perfectionism to be one of my character defects.  It most certainly didn’t serve me.  Now I can be proud that I have done my best, no more no less, just my best.  As an alcoholic in recovery I still retain my obsessive-compulsive behavior and thinking.  However, since I am aware of this now and how it negatively affects my life, I embrace it, thank it for coming, and then let it go when it appears.

7. Develop a New Response to Failure 

One telltale sign of imposter syndrome is beating yourself up for being human—a.k.a. for making even the tiniest of mistakes. Coupled with perfectionism, a self-critical response to failure (“I should have known better” or “I should have known the answer”) is unhealthy. It is not realistic as we all make  mistakes. 

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So, the next time things don’t go as planned (because they won’t) or you’re wrong (because you will be), try acknowledging the lesson learned, allowing room for self-compassion, and then moving on. Remember that you have just as much right as anyone else to be wrong, have an off day, or need help.  

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Dee:  Today I can laugh at myself when I make an ass of myself.  That’s only because I love and accept myself for who I am today and know that I AM doing my best and, yes, I am human.  As are you.  I don’t judge you for your mistakes.  And if you judge me, that’s not my problem.  I have no control over people, places or things.  And life continues on. 

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Everything that happens in my life is purposely positioned.  Every person I meet, every experience I have.  And ALL are for the purpose of my growth, my success, my sharing my experience, strength and hope with others and to help them through their “imposter syndromes”. 

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8. Make Time for You 

People who suffer from imposter syndrome often work harder than others, to make up for feeling like a fraud. On the positive side, they are highly ambitious and great achievers; on the negative side, they overwork themselves and are prone to burnout. 

Being diligent is a great quality, but not at the expense of your health. Finding balance is key. You do not need to overwork yourself on the job in order to compensate for fictional inadequacies. In fact, redefine what “working harder” means for you—it can be working hard on taking care of yourself. 

Figure out what you need to do in order to take care of yourself and create a self-care program that works  for you. 

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Dee:  This has been difficult because I have always put myself last.  Remember, I cared more about what you thought of me than what I thought of myself.  I am trying my best to nurture myself, to put balance and moderation in my life.  But again, I am obsessive-compulsive to this is harder said than done.  But the seed has been placed and, one day at a time, I practice self-care not only for my reward for jobs well done, but for survival, fitness and sanity. 

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9. Visualize Success 

By being able to paint a concrete picture of what success looks like to you, it can become less vague and more obtainable. That way when it does happen, you won’t be so quick to reject it. Here are some simple ways to help you visualize success: 

Write down your goals. Get it out of your head and onto paper. By being able to communicate your goals, you can more easily imagine them happening.
Picture yourself victorious. Visualize how you navigate a situation—as many details as you can so that it feels true when it happens. 

Dee:  I am lucky I love to write and I have noticed that when I write things down those thoughts sink in, make more sense, and are stronger.  I’ll even write things down over and over again and each time I do the light bulb becomes a little brighter.  Try it!  Like with an affirmation.  It will sink in; it will come to fruition.

When I take the time to quiet my mind, as with meditation, is when my visualizations become more tangible.  Again by repeatedly visualizing, writing things down over and over, thinking about what victory looks like to you, will become more solid and focused.  Your brain will start to realize that this is important stuff, so I best get moving to accomplish and succeed! 

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10. Remember That You Are Not Alone 

Lots of highly successful people experience similar feelings of inadequacy (authors Maya Angelou and Seth Godin; actors Tom Hanks, Natalie Portman, and Felicia Day; and comedians Amy Schumer and Tina Fey, to name a few) and just knowing that others are experiencing it too can make you feel less isolated, releasing the syndrome’s power over you. 

In fact, studies found that 70 percent of people have struggled with imposter syndrome at some time in their lives. Your friends, bosses, classmates, and others you respect may have felt similar feelings of inadequacy. In our competitive, achievement-obsessed culture, it is probably more common than you think. 

So when you realize that you are not alone and actually connected to a lot of successful people who suffer from the same unhelpful symptoms of imposter syndrome, it will help you feel less lonely. 

Remember, you wouldn’t be promoted, complimented, trusted, and praised if you were actually a fraud. Let these tips help you expose imposter syndrome for what it truly is: not reality.  

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Dee:  Finding a group of like-minded people with whom I surround myself has helped me tremendously by comforting me and reinforcing in me that I am not alone.  For me my like-minded people I’ve found in the AA Fellowship.  But there are a wealth of local support groups in your area who are there to help you with whatever ails you…imposter syndrome, addictions, depression, and life itself.  And if the first shoe doesn’t fit, try another until you feel like “you’re finally home”. 

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Thank you for allowing me to share my journey with you.  I anxiously await hearing about your journey so please reach out.  Together we can get through any and everything.  Rid yourself of the guilt and the shame and love yourself for who you are…in all your glory.  You are amazing!  Remember that! 

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For those interested in my Art with a Message of Hope and Inspiration, such as the mosaics you see here, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  And if you would like to see this blog on YouTube, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH6oHjEwhzE.  Mahalo and enjoy!            

With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

About the Author :  Melissa Eisler (/bios/melissa-eisler)
Certified Leadership & Career Coach, Yoga & Meditation Instructor, Author 

Melissa is the Senior Content Strategist at the Chopra Center. Also an ICF Certified Leadership and Career Coach (ACC) and certified meditation and yoga instructor, she is passionate about motivating people to live a healthy, balanced, and purposeful life. You can learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at MelissaEisler.com (https://melissaeisler.com/). 

The Chopra Center

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3 Meditations to Get You in the Holiday Spirit

Dee:  This blog was inspired by the Chopra Center’s                                                                 “3 Meditations to Get You in the Holiday Spirit” 

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3 Meditations to Get You in the Holiday Spirit 

By Melissa Eisler

The holidays are upon us again—a busy time of year filled with visiting with friends and family, shopping for gifts, and preparing special meals to enjoy with loved ones. 

The holiday season is meant to be a happy time; it conjures up images of cozying up by the fireplace, baking ginger bread cookies, giving to and helping those in need, and stepping away from the day-to-day grind to focus on family and loved ones. But it can also come with a lot of stress—worrying over extra expenses, navigating unpredictable family drama, and burning out from a jam-packed schedule. With all the hustle and bustle this time of year brings, it can be easy to get caught up in this stress and lose focus on the essence of what the holidays represent: feeling and sharing joy, kindness, and gratitude for all that you have in your life. 

Dee:

Ew.  The image just conjured up in my mind is one of incomprehensible demoralization.  Thank God I’m not that person today and I have a support group and a toolbox for living to keep me from going back there.

The image conjured up cozying up by the fireplace is one Christmas Eve years ago, opening gifts with family after a wonderful lobster dinner.  I think.  You see, I am an alcoholic.  Today a grateful alcoholic in recovery.  But then I was active in my disease.

Coming home after a full day at work (being a checker at a grocery store on Christmas Eve is no easy feat in itself), I made a lobster thermidor dinner for my family, which included my mom and step-dad who were visiting.  I must of had too many glasses of wine (which was a daily occurrence) because the rest is very fuzzy.

I wake up in bed on Christmas morning (or “come to” which was also a daily occurrence) not remembering if we had opened our gifts.  This Christmas I asked my boys to pick out one gift they would like to open on Christmas Eve.  They chose.  Then we opened them all except for that special gift we would save for Christmas Day.  I think.  I don’t remember.

When I “fished” for clues from my mom on Christmas Day what happened on Christmas Eve, she said she knew I was tired after a long day at work and making dinner.  Apparently I fell asleep by the wood stove (but really I passed out).  Shit.  I hate this story.  I hate my life.  I hate myself.

I am not going to say that the holidays were too stressful or that I did not meditate.  My story is that I am an alcoholic and one drink for me is too many because I will not stop until I pass out, kill you and your family on the road, and end up in an institution.

Meditation is a great way to help you refocus on what matters most this holiday season. You can’t control other people or events, but you can use meditation to help you navigate through the overwhelming feelings. Try practicing the following meditations to cultivate joy, kindness, and gratitude for 10 to 15 minutes each day from now through to the end of the year. 

Dee:

Since then I have gone to a recovery center, become an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and have learned a new way to live in sobriety.  Now I love my story, my past, because without the feeling of incomprehensible demoralization I would not feel the freedom and happiness I feel at this moment.

And I have learned that I am a gift and how to love myself in the moment with the many wretched stories in my past.  That was me then.  I am me now.  And tomorrow doesn’t exist.  And I practice meditation and I get quiet and know that there is a Power Greater Than Myself who is in control, driving my car, taking me on the ride of my life, introducing me to exciting new adventures and people, while I soak it all up in the passenger seat.  This gives me contentment and joy knowing all is perfect at this moment, that I don’t have to be in control, that I don’t have to think anymore and can live from my heart, knowing, trusting, that I am protected and guided by a Higher Power.

A Meditation for Cultivating Joy 

The stress this time of year can sometimes leave you feeling exhausted, often zapping the joy that the holidays are supposed to bring. Meditating not only helps you be more joyful and present, but it can also help you spread joy to those around you. And spreading joy, lifting others, and being jolly are central to the holiday spirit! Try these simple steps to cultivate that joyful, jolly feeling: 

•Find a quiet area—this can be in a room in your house, an area in your garden, or next to the fireplace when everyone else has gone to sleep.                                                                                        
•Sit in an upright position. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose, and exhale through your mouth.                                                                                                •Continue with five deeps breaths. Pay attention to how you are feeling, finding any discomfort or pain points and adjusting yourself to be more comfortable.
•Continue to breathe, focusing on the feeling of your chest rising and falling.
•Now, turn your attention to your thoughts. Your mind may be racing with your holiday to-do list; if so, visualize yourself crossing the items off and feeling accomplished. Know that you are taking this time for yourself, so that you can have the energy to tackle that list joyfully.                                                                                   •Now that you are clearing your mind and making room for joy, think of a holiday memory from your past when you felt deep joy. This could be a joyful holiday moment from your youth or from a recent memory. Focus on the details of that moment as you attempt to relive it in your mind, like you were watching a movie of that memory.                                                                •As you bring that moment to the center of your consciousness, pay attention to the joyful emotions and sensations that you felt, the smells that you experienced (ginger bread and peppermint, perhaps?), and the rich tastes of the season. Stay with the memory for a while.
Next, think of a way to recreate those feelings in your life today, perhaps with different people, a different location, and a different activity, but working to cultivate the same mood of joy for yourself and those you would like to share those feelings with.                                                                                                                                       •Release that visual and take 10 deep breaths, inhaling to fill yourself with the holiday spirit of joy, and exhaling to send joy out into the world.
•When you’re finished, sit quietly for a few moments before gently opening your eyes. 

Practice this meditation daily, focusing on cultivating and spreading joy. With repetition, you’ll be able to tap into those feelings more readily, even when faced with the stress of the season. 

A Meditation for Cultivating Kindness 

The holidays are a great time to give back and spread kindness to your loved ones, strangers, and even to those who you are not on good terms with. Kindness is about extending grace, compassion, and love to others, and you can use meditation to improve your capacity for empathy and compassion. Try these simple steps, a derivative of the Loving-Kindness Meditation: 

Before you start this mediation, set a timer for between 5 and 20 minutes and think of a few phrases that invoke kindness and compassion toward others. String three or four short phrases together. Write them down if it helps you memorize them. If you can’t think of any, try these: 

“May you be at peace.” “May you be healthy.” “May you feel free.” “May joy fill your life.” 

•As before, find yourself in a comfortable area where you can focus on your meditation without distractions. Sit in a comfortable position and start to take five deep breaths. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, while tuning in to any discomfort in your body and adjusting as needed.                                                                                                            •Continue your rhythmic breathing and pick someone (or yourself!) or a group of people that you will channel loving-kindness to (for example, your family, your neighbors, your community, your country, or refugees across the world that you read about in the news).
•With this person or people clear in your mind, repeat your loving-kindness phrases silently for the duration of your meditation:                                                                                                “May you be at peace.” “May you be healthy.” “May you feel free.” “May joy fill your life.”                                                                                                                                          •When your timer goes off, sit quietly for a few moments, smiling at the kindness you have sent to others, and gently open your eyes. 

Try practicing this meditation when you wake up and before you go to bed, so that you start and end your day with loving-kindness. You can change the beneficiary of your meditation each time you do it if you’d like. It will help you practice kindness to everyone on this planet during this holiday season. 

A Meditation for Cultivating Gratitude 

Being grateful is something you can practice year-round, but the holidays are often a time to be especially reflective on your life. This meditation will help you think about what you are grateful for and how to express that appreciation. Try these simple steps to develop a gratitude mindset: 

•Find a comfortable, quiet location to begin your practice. For this one, find a sunny spot on your patio, take a seat next to warm fireplace, or curl up in a warm blanket on a cold winter day.
•Sit up straight, adjusting your posture as necessary to ease any pain points.
•Start by taking a series of deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Lightly close your eyes and continue a rhythmic breathing pattern.                                                           •If you are sitting outside on a sunny day or next to the fireplace, notice how the warmth embraces you and melts the cool winter chill. Breathe and enjoy the sensation of warmth flowing through your body.
•Start to reflect on the gifts that life has given you today. What can you be grateful for today, in this very moment? You can choose something specific that happened today or even the simple fact that you are alive and breathing and practicing the gift of meditation.                                                                                                                               •Bring to mind all the potential comforts that you have in your life, for example:                 

Access to water and food                                                                                                        Clothes
Electricity
Home                                                                                                                                      

Friends, family, and pets 

Technology
                                                                                                                                                        One by one, think of all the special people or animals that are a part of your life, both directly and indirectly: 

Family
Friends
Pets
Coworkers
Mentor
The farmer who grew your food
The officer who keeps your neighborhood safe
The engineer who constructed the school your kids go to 

Now, think about something in your life that you are grateful for that was new in the last year.
Now, think of one talent or skill that you possess that you’re grateful for.
Now, think of one thing that you are really looking forward to in the future.
Now, think about something that makes you smile or laugh, and observe the emotions that flow through your body. 

•Release the gratitude images, take a few deep breaths, and finish by taking inventory of how you are feeling. Without judgment, simply observe. 

When you are finished, you can gently open your eyes and bring the feelings of gratitude with you into the rest of your day. 

When you practice these three meditations, you are actively working to cultivate feelings of joy, kindness, and gratitude this holiday season, benefitting your well-being as well as those around you. What better way to get into the holiday spirit, and in turn, make it contagious! 

Dee:

I have GOT TO do this!  I have GOT TO add “self” to my list of to-do’s.  I randomly, fleetingly, have thoughts of how grateful I am, how compassionate I am for those who have less.  But if I set that timer for 5-20 minutes for ME and make that time for getting centered, getting humble, and getting back focused and in the moment, I know in my heart that the day will unfold more smoothly and effortlessly than had I not.

I shall start today, right now, by adding in my list of daily activities in my phone: 5 MINUTES OF MEDITATION.  When I turn off that damned alarm and get quiet, take those deep breaths, I might just adjust that timer for 20 minutes.  

Then I’ll get to finish decorating the house, finish writing the Christmas cards, finish the orders that need to be finished before Christmas, eat some lunch, take a shower, get ready for tonight’s guests…

Thank you for taking time for yourself and knowing we are all crazy and stressed this time of year.  Just breathe…  Wishing you Mele Kalikimaka with warmest Aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of Self-Care, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

About the Author 

Melissa Eisler (/bios/melissa-eisler)
Certified Leadership & Career Coach, Yoga & Meditation Instructor, Author 

Melissa is the Senior Content Strategist at the Chopra Center. Also an ICF Certified Leadership and Career Coach (ACC) and certified meditation and yoga instructor, she is passionate about motivating people to live a healthy, balanced, and purposeful life. You can learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at MelissaEisler.com (https://melissaeisler.com/). Melissa is also the author of The Type A’s Guide to Mindfulness: Meditation for Busy Minds and Busy People (http://amzn.to/1J1dYvz), a practical guide for new meditators in the modern world, and the creator of mindfulminutes.com (http://mindfulminutes.com/), a… Read more (/bios/melissa-eisler) 

The Chopra Center

7 Virtues for Self-Improvement

7 Virtues for Self-Improvement 

By Melissa Eisler

Virtues are universal moral habits that are widely recognized as good character traits. By practicing virtues every day, you can build and live a purposeful and value-driven life. After a week of focusing on doing good, you’ll notice that you’re attracting more positivity and happiness into your life. 

Some might say that virtuous qualities are innate or developed early in life, but you can also learn and cultivate virtues so that they become more prevalent and habitual in your daily life. By practicing being more virtuous, you can live a more intentional life with greater fulfillment, peace, and joy. Here are seven common virtues. Focus on one a day for a week to gain insight into yourself and bring more joy to those   around you. 

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Dee:

I always thought I was a good, kind person.  But it wasn’t until I got into recovery from alcoholism that I discovered that I was a mean and self-centered human being.  That word “thought” in my first sentence is a word I am grateful to be releasing from my vocabulary.  Being in recovery, becoming more a spiritual being, means for me I no longer have to think so much, to understand it all, but to feel and to live from my heart.  What a foreign way to live my life, but so freeing!

When I left a 28-day alcohol treatment program it was suggested to stay on track that I attend AA meetings and do what was suggested to me there.  I did.  I attended meetings.  I got a Big Book.  I got a sponsor.  I worked the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous with my sponsor.  I got into service.  I got better.

Working the Steps with my sponsor showed me how fear-based I had been living my life.  With that fear came defensiveness and selfishness.  I knew no other way.  I hadn’t been taught a different way to be.  That part of my journey didn’t come until I reached rock bottom and then found recovery. 

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When I made my amends to my kids they told me how mean I was.  I was baffled.  Just like alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful.  When I got the drink in me I turned into another creature; it brought out the worst in me.  And I certainly didn’t like “that” person.  As a matter of fact, I loathed and hated her and called her a loser when I saw her in the mirror.  I also had no purpose and felt I was a waste of space on this planet.  How sad is that to have lived 50 years of my life purposelessly?  Again, my journey with a Higher Power in my life today that knows “When the student is ready, the Master appears.” 

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I don’t know if that mean person in me is really who I am inside or who I became when the alcohol changed me.  It doesn’t matter.  Again, no need spending precious energy dwelling on that.  All I know is that today…finally…I am comfortable in my own skin and can truly say I love myself for who and what I am and what my journey has given me.  Virtuous qualities innate or developed, learned or cultivated?  Doesn’t matter.  Today I live as rigorously honest as I can, being me, not fearing your thoughts of me.  Today I turn my will and my life over to the care of a Higher Power Greater Than Me.  And today I emanate something good that I don’t even know is happening that attracts people to me in a wonderful way.  Do I understand this?  Nope.

1. Acceptance 

Are you facing a challenge in your life right now or experiencing an emotion you would rather not face? Join the club—this is part of the human experience. The trick here is to reduce resisting experiences that come your way, where you are unable to affect change. Practicing acceptance does not necessarily mean you like, want, support, or endorse everything you cross paths with.

Rather, it means you’re choosing to allow it to be there without resistance, when you can’t change  it anyway. 

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To practice acceptance, identify anything in your life you feel you may be resisting. Notice if there is something you can do to change the situation for the better, and if not, begin the process of releasing that resistance and embracing acceptance. Just as the familiar Serenity Prayer states, “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”  

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Dee:

When something is bugging the hell out of you I can suggest that you embrace it, thank it for coming, and then let it go…whisked away into the clouds softly and forever.  Well why can’t I walk my talk?  Because I need to dwell in my doo doo for just awhile longer, beat up on myself, and wait to get to that point where I can no longer take it.  Why can I not remember for myself that everything is perfect at this moment? 

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2. Authenticity 

To be authentic is to feel at home in yourself and be true to your values. Authenticity is important in creating healthy relationships, but it can also be challenging to practice on a daily basis due to fear. You may fear that if you showed up as you truly are—saying, doing, and feeling the things within you without censoring yourself— that others might reject you.  

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To practice authenticity, do something that truly reflects your deepest needs, wishes, and values. Give up changing your behavior because of the desire to be liked. Speak up for yourself and say/do what’s in your heart. 

Dee:

Finding out who I am and what makes me tick by working the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous was the most eye-opening journey I have ever walked.  I feel such a weight off my shoulders knowing how fear-based I lived most of my life and why.

Today I accept it, embrace it, and let it whisk away whilst concentrating on self-love and self-care.  Turn my head off.  Meditate.  A bit of yoga.  Get out in nature.  Enjoy quiet.  Write. 

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Today I get to live in rigorous honesty.  I was so exhausted from lying, hiding and cheating for decades in my active disease.  No more.  I’ve got to use my energy in positive ways.  And today my Higher Power has given me purpose…to share my experience, strength and hope with whoever enters my Dee bubble and might need a ray of light and inspiration, a glimpse of hope, some optimism, and knowing no one needs to go through anything, ever, alone!

3. Compassion 

Sara Schairer, founder of Compassion It, a nonprofit dedicated to the social movement of fostering daily compassionate actions and attitudes, defines compassion (https://chopra.com/articles/whats-the-difference- between-empathy-sympathy-and-compassion) as “the willingness to relieve the suffering of another.” It can be difficult to sit with your own suffering or observe/feel it from someone else. But like the other virtues, compassion is a skill that gets easier with practice.  

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Practicing compassion for someone (this can be yourself) who is suffering can come in many different forms. To get started, read Sara’s article (https://chopra.com/articles/4-steps-to-finding-peace-through-compassion) and follow its four steps. Before you know it, you will be connecting with others and yourself in a more meaningful way. (https://chopra.com/free-programs/discover-your-purpose-toolkit?_ga=2.12561396.1726373736.1526314196- 557740326.1524243263) 

Dee:

One thing I do daily to keep myself centered, grounded, humble and grateful is to thank my Higher Power for everything, and I mean everything.  If it doesn’t go my way or isn’t what I want I know there are no coincidences and that I am meant to learn from it, grow, and become a better person.

I also ask my Higher Power to help me to be mindful, compassionate, respectful and loving.  That means for me to make eye contact with you and give you my complete attention.  Shut my head off from my to-do list.  I ask my Higher Power to help me not judge, to put myself in your shoes.  I have no clue what your life is like or what you’ve been through.  But your sharing your journey with me will help me better understand and, again, grow and be a better person. 

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4. Curiosity

When you’re curious, problem solving becomes easier because you see more options, paths, and ways of solving a problem than your non-curious counterparts. You question more; you gather more opinions; you don’t stop at the first solution–which can lead to greater possibilities. 

To truly embrace an attitude of curiosity means you begin to question things in your life and the world around you with no attachment to the answer. This last part is the key. Even if the subject at hand is something you know a lot about–pretend like you are getting to know it for the first time and with wonder, begin to inquire, observe, and learn. To do this without judgment requires an incredibly high degree of openness. Embracing curiosity involves playfulness, lightness, and openness–all fun qualities to practice, so remember to enjoy the process! 

Dee:

Of course I have curiosity.  Thank God for Google.  But if I can’t get the answer I need, if technology isn’t going smoothly today, I let it go for now.  If I feel the answer to my curiosity isn’t going to be something that serves me favorably, I let that go, too.  I only have x amount of energy and I must pick and choose how I spend my time.  I always choose to spend it in a positive way.  A way that will help me and others to achieve our highest good.

Another option I always have waiting for me is my God Box.  If I’m in a dilemma and don’t know which way to turn or what choice to make, I put it in the God Box.  This alcoholic wants instant answers and gratification.  I’m learning my Higher Power is teaching me patience and faith. 

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5. Forgiveness 

Forgiveness can be difficult to achieve, especially toward loved ones who you feel have wronged you in some way. To forgive is to let go of anger and bitterness, making room for peace and love. 

To begin practicing this virtue, focus on someone to start forgiving. Read Deepak Chopra’s 7 Steps to Forgiveness (https://chopra.com/articles/the-7-steps-to-forgiveness) to get you started, and then put those steps into action. 

Dee:

It’s been easier for me to forgive others I feel have wronged me by putting myself in their shoes.  Again, I have no idea of their journey nor hardships.  I also live by Don Miguel Ruiz’s agreement of “Don’t take things personally” from his book, The Four Agreements.

If you want to live a positive, light life, let go of the negative shit, the wrongs done to you and the hardships you face.  Try to look at the glass half-full and make a positive out of your negatives.  I promise you there is a positive.  Remember to be grateful for this moment.  There are many on this planet who would love to live in your worst day! 

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6. Courage 

There are different types of courage, including physical strength, endurance, mental stamina, and innovation. No matter the type of courage you’re trying to embrace, the presence of fear is part of the process. Ultimately, courage doesn’t mean that you aren’t afraid, it means that you take action despite your fear. As Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who  conquers that fear.” 

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To practice being courageous, you’re going to have to face a fear in your life. It can be something small, like singing in the shower, or something big, like confronting (https://chopra.com/articles/mindful-confrontation-9- steps-to-handle-conflict-in-a-healthy-way) a friend. You choose where to begin. Another good way to practice courage is do something new every day. This widens your comfort zone and allows you to experience things you may not otherwise try.  

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Dee:

How many times have we dreaded something we have to face, dwelled on it until it made us sick and sleepless only to find out once face that it wasn’t that bad?  Today I just want to cross if off my damned “to do” list and move on, rather than moving it to the next day, the next day, week, then month.  For pity sake.  It’s a negative.  Embrace it.  Do it.  Let it go. 

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7. Detachment 

The Law of Detachment (https://chopra.com/articles/the-law-of-detachment) states that you should detach yourself, and your ability to be happy, from a desired outcome. Otherwise, attachment to a specific outcome will show up as disappointment when/if that outcome doesn’t happen. 

Find out what you’re attached to—is it a goal? An object? A person?—and follow these five steps (https://chopra.com/articles/5-steps-to-detaching-for-a-happier-life) to detach for a happier life. 

Dee:

“No expectations…no disappointments.”  I love this quote, affirmation, slogan I learned in AA.  So true.  Expectations for me means going into the future.  Why am I going there?  All I have is this moment here and now in front of my nose.  So don’t shit on it.  Why am I “thinking” I can control people, places or things?  My Higher Power has got my back and will protect and guide me on the journey best for me.  So  stop it, Dee.  Detach.

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If you’ve made it this far and kept up with the recommended practices, you’ve probably gained some wisdom along the way. Wisdom—another virtue [noun: goodness, virtuousness, righteousness, morality, integrity, dignity, rectitude, honor, decency, respectability, nobility, worthiness, purity; principles, ethics.]—is about utilizing knowledge and experience with commonsense and insight. 

Which virtue did you find the most challenging to practice? Which was the most fun? Take the knowledge and experience you’ve gained from these exercises and see how you can incorporate these virtues into your everyday life. 

Dee:

My most challenging virtue is walking my talk…staying positive, optimistic and in the moment.  But when I bring myself back to earth and get right-sized with my Higher Power, everything falls back into place, including myself.  

The most fun virtue is just being me, that kid in me, spontaneous and goofy…all about fun!  I stress to my kids who are adults now, “Never grow up.  Never lose sight of your passions!”  And with that I thank you for taking time to read this.  I truly welcome any feedback.

And if you find yourself in a funk know that you are not alone.  Contact me.  Contact the wealth of support services in your area.  Together we can get through anything and make this world a better place!

With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of Well-Being and Self-Love, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

Remember the intention of focusing on your virtues is for you to become more aware of your actions and live a value-driven life—not to master each virtue after one day. See if you can find ways to practice virtues each day. Over time, they will become daily habits. 

Get personalized guidance to create a clear roadmap to self-improvement with the Chopra Center’s Discover Your Purpose Toolkit, which includes a free e-book, worksheet, 1:1 discovery session, and guided meditation. Get your free toolkit now. (https://www.chopra.com/free-programs/discover-your-purpose-toolkit) 

About the Author 

Melissa Eisler (/bios/melissa-eisler)
Certified Leadership & Career Coach, Yoga & Meditation Instructor, Author 

Melissa is the Senior Content Strategist at the Chopra Center. Also an ICF Certified Leadership and Career Coach (ACC) and certified meditation and yoga instructor, she is passionate about motivating people to live a healthy, balanced, and purposeful life. You can learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at MelissaEisler.com (https://melissaeisler.com/). Melissa is also the author of The Type A’s Guide to Mindfulness: Meditation for Busy Minds and Busy People (http://amzn.to/1J1dYvz), a practical guide for new meditators in the modern world, and the creator of mindfulminutes.com (http://mindfulminutes.com/), a… Read more (/bios/melissa-eisler) 

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