This long weekend, I watched Pretty Woman after ages! But this time it was with my girls. I thought that as adolescents, highly attuned to the opinions of others, they may learn an important lesson that’ll hold them steady through yet another year colored by what their peers think and see.
Do you remember the self-doubt that derailed the Julia Roberts character? And do you remember how the Richard Gere character believed she was a special person, and how that gave her the courage to explore herself?
[Tweet “We believe in the “bad stuff” about us when it fits into the negative image we’ve built about ourselves”]
Many of us have a Julia Roberts character living within us. The one that doubts our abilities and believes in all the “bad stuff” about us – because it fits in with the negative image we’ve built about ourselves.
Of course there are many reasons for this image. It could be early experiences with a hypercritical or depressed caregiver, or because we were made to feel invisible as a child. Or it could be thanks to the genetic cards we were dealt with at birth, that made us “ruminators” who mull over every negative feedback and allow it to color the identity we form early on. And then there’s the societal onslaught that demands perfection and grades us on an unforgiving curve.
But a Richard Gere character can change that. This is because as women, we’re highly relational – our brain circuitry for observing other people’s emotions is very sensitive – we’re primed for motherhood even as babies!
This has its good and its bad. The bad first? Well here goes:
Those of us who grow up with low self-worth, become highly sensitive to other peoples’ verbal and non-verbal cues towards us. Negative feedback, both at home and at work, sticks to us like Velcro, because it fits into whatever disempowering beliefs we’ve formed about ourselves.
Even those of us who grow up believing in ourselves, can eventually fall under the barrage of negative feedback – at work, but especially at home, because negative emotional relationships (such as romantic relationships) have the power to tear us down.
But here’s the good news!
Relationships with those who view us as special, and believe in our potential and capabilities, can build us back up, and eventually change the way we view ourselves. Genuine friends and mentors are just some of the people who can help us aspire towards an ideal self while grounding us in the real self, so we can work to bridge the rift between the two.
It happens in Hollywood, but it also happens in real life. George Eliot, widely known for her epic novels (remember Silas Marner, The Mill on the Floss?), and lesser known for her incredibly low self-worth, discovered her talent for writing only after finding herself through her relationship with a man who loved her and believed in her.
And in my work, I’ve come across many wonderful women who found themselves through genuine relationships that took them from a life of hollow pursuits to one of deep fulfillment.
But relationships with a real person are not the only way to find yourself. Books, both fiction and non-fiction can become the wakeup call that connects you to yourself. As can be the people who happen to enter your life by chance, and who inspire you to change the way you view yourself.
Which brings me to the key takeaway.
Not all of us will have a Richard Gere character that shakes us from the status quo, inspires us to change our thinking, and cheers us on all the way (although won’t it be nice if we did!)
But all of us are offered wake-up calls every once in a while. They urge us to question our thoughts, take courageous action and eventually shift the way we view ourselves. It’s this journey of self-awareness that takes us from who we are to who we can become.
[Tweet “But all of us are offered wake-up calls every once in a while.”]
So the next time you hear the critical voice in your head, step back and look at it from a distance. What’s it telling you? What do you need to believe? What can you let go of? And who will support you in your efforts?
And here’s a free download that can help you!