Category Archives: Philosophical Counseling

Mirco Confidence

Most people who struggle with self-confidence tend to think of it as an all or nothing thing…especially when confidence is in short supply. Either you’re confident or you’re not. You have the wherewithal to get through this challenge or you do not. You believe in yourself or you don’t. You’re perfectly confident in your ability to succeed…or in the likelihood you’ll fail.

Yet, confidence rarely manifests in such absolute terms. And framing confidence in all or nothing terms blocks you from experiencing the living, breathing confidence that’s growing stronger in your heart each time you meet a goal or learn a lesson…even a small, simple one.

Why make confidence so difficult to attain? Instead, seek to develop micro confidence. That is, limit the scope and intensity that your confidence must have in order to “count”. Center your confidence on the infinitely accomplishable and the easily doable.

Don’t have confidence that you can finish a degree? Then take one class…one day at a time. Don’t believe you can lose weight? Start by confidently changing one meal or adding one short walk to your week.

Are you absolutely confident that you’ll never have the life, the relationship, the career you want? Keep centering your thoughts and actions on these negative assumptions and you can be all but certain that you won’t. However, generating a tiny bit of micro confidence to take a step in the direction of what you want is all you need to shift your energies in a positive direction.

What that one small step is depends on your values and your goals. You might begin with a brief morning meditation or prayer centered on the changes you want to make. Make this a sacred time devoted to nurturing your ability to believe in what’s possible. Open yourself up to new ideas and allow yourself to receive guidance as to the next steps.

Ask yourself “what is the smallest action that I could take today that would still be a commitment to the changes I want to make”? Then take that action. You don’t have to have confidence in the end of your journey. You just have to believe enough to take that first small step!

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God Bless Us, Every One!

I posted a version of this last Christmas. But given the growing level of selfishness and hatred seen in human interactions today, these themes bear revising and revisiting. Enjoy!

For me, it’s just not Christmas without A Christmas Carol. I love getting caught up in the story of greed gone good and the most sacred of human redemptions. I watch EVERY version of the movie that has ever been made. The classic Alastair Sim version is still my favorite. But I even admit to enjoying the cartoon Carols with Mr. Magoo and the Smurfs…and the ultra-cheesy Ebbie with Susan Lucci.

At the beginning of the story, Dickens says “I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book to raise the Ghost of an Idea.” Just what idea Dickens had in mind I do not know. But the idea I am left with after reading the tale…the idea I’d like to raise …is this:

Every human, every one, stands in need of redemption. None of us is without flaw or foible. Like it or not, we depend upon the grace of God, the bounty of creation and the generosity of others to live life, let alone to live it well. We are saved by these connections. And ourselves being saved, we are called upon to share the gift of connection and salvation with each other.

When little Tiny Tim, out of the abundance of his heart, proudly proclaims the most recognized holiday wish since “We bring you tidings of great joy,” he gave such a gift.  “God bless us, every one.” In context, the boy was offering his special prayer for those he loved. But Dickens and I have a deeper message in mind.

God bless us, everyone! Yes, literally everyone! Wishing well to those who would do the same for you is easy. But it’s difficult, nigh impossible, to wish blessing upon those who hurt us or wish us ill. Yet that is the nature of the love of which divine blessing is made. No one on this planet is beyond the reach of divine blessing. And no one on this planet should try to change that.

The reason is simple…and from a certain perspective, selfish. Divine blessing…divine love…is given freely without condition or limit. But when asking for this blessing, we most often pray the easy, narrowly focused “God please give us” prayers. Easy prayers center us on the ones being blessed rather than on the one giving the blessing. In doing so, they turn divine blessings into all too human “good wishes.”

Praying such easy prayers closes off the heart and cripples our ability to give and receive the love of which blessings are made. Praying the difficult prayer opens our hearts to God and to others in a bond of mutual respect and shared communion. Love thy neighbor is great. But love thy enemy is an uphill climb…especially if the hurt they’ve caused is fresh and the pain intense.

There is nothing wrong with asking this love for our families, friends, selves and those like us. However, unless we can pray the same prayer for one who hates us (not just for one you hate), then we don’t know how deeply and profoundly the blessing for which we are asking runs. We will never truly know divine love until we can share it with the one who our human heart would rather avoid or even  harm in return.

So in this holiday season, dare to pray a bolder prayer.

“God bless us! Every one!

“God, bless those I love and those who love me. Bless all those who have my best interest at heart. Bless those who make your world a better place simply by being in it. Bless those who make my life shine!

“But God, also bless those who hate and spitefully use us. Bless those who find me foolish and without value. Bless those who see my opinions…or even my existence…as trivial. Bless those who see themselves as the world’s greatest blessing.

“Bless those who make my life hell. Bless those I cannot bless because even seeing them darkens my spirit. Bless those who have hurt me most deeply, even those who hurt me in your name. Bless those with whom I will never agree!

Bless those who destroy for destruction’s sake. Bless those whose actions tear at our hearts and preoccupy our minds with humanity gone wrong. Bless those who would obliterate the best in us…the best and most innocent among us. Bless those who know naught but evil, and bless us so that we will never be or be impacted by such as that.

“Bless those who would never think…or want…to ask for your blessings themselves.”

Perhaps this change in the focus of our prayers will open the door to new community, connection and cooperation in 2013. Individually, as a nation and a world, we are in desperate need of this blessing!

One of my other favorite things about A Christmas Carol is that Dickens chose Ebenezer as the first name of his redeemed character. The word translates literally from Hebrew as “Stone of Help.” In Old Testament times, such stones were raised to memorialize places and times when God intervened for the good of Israel in ways which no human being could have orchestrated alone. Dickens’ Ebenezer was graced with such an intervention for his good…and subsequently became the source of good interventions on behalf of others.

In this most sacred of times for so many faiths, let us receive that same grace to transform our hearts to better share love, joy and peace with all. Let us not be like Old Jacob Marley, dead as a door-nail in our spirits. Let us be redeemable and sources of redemption for the Scrooge that would dwell in each of our hearts. God, please do bless us…every one!

God Bless Us! Everyone!

For me, it’s just not Christmas without A Christmas Carol. I love getting caught up in the story of greed gone good and the most sacred of human redemptions. I also watch EVERY version of the movie that has ever been made. The classic Alastair Sim version is still my favorite. But I even admit to enjoying the ultra-cheesy Ebbie with Susan Lucci. 

Of course, one of the best parts of the whole thing, for me, is when little Tiny Tim, out of the abundance of his heart, proudly proclaims the most recognized holiday wish since “We bring you tidings of great joy.” “God bless us, every one.” In context, the boy was offering his special prayer for those he loved. But Dickens and I have a deeper message in mind.

God bless us, everyone! Yes, literally everyone! Wishing well to those who would do the same for you is easy. But it’s difficult, nigh impossible, to wish blessing upon those who hurt us or wish us ill. Yet that is the nature of the love of which divine blessing is made. No one on this planet is beyond the reach of divine blessing. And no one on this planet should try to change that.

The reason is simple…and from a certain perspective, selfish. Divine blessing…divine love…is given freely without condition or limit. But when asking for this blessing, we most often pray the easy, narrowly focused “God please give us” prayers. Easy prayers center us on the ones being blessed rather than on the one giving the blessing. In doing so, they turn divine blessings into all too human “good wishes.”

Praying such easy prayers closes off the heart and cripples our ability to give and receive the love of which blessings are made. Praying the difficult prayer opens our hearts to God and to others in a bond of mutual respect and shared communion.

There is nothing wrong with asking this love for our families, friends, selves and those like us. However, unless we can pray the same prayer for one who hates us (not just for one you hate), then we don’t know for what kind of blessing we are asking.

So in this holiday season, dare to pray a bolder prayer.

“God bless us! Everyone!

“God, bless those I love and those who love me. Bless all those who have my best interest at heart. Bless those who make your world a better place simply by being in it. Bless those who make my life shine!

“But God, also bless those who hate and spitefully use us. Bless those who find me foolish and without value. Bless those who see my opinions…or even my existence…as trivial. Bless those who see themselves as the world’s greatest blessing.

“Bless those who make my life hell. Bless those I cannot bless because even seeing them darkens my spirit. Bless those who have hurt me most deeply, even those who hurt me in your name. Bless those with whom I will never agree!

“Bless those who would never think to ask for your blessings themselves.”

Perhaps this change in the focus of our blessing requests will open the door to new community and cooperation in 2012. Individually, as a nation and a world, we are in desperate need of this blessing!

So God, please do bless us! Everyone!

 

Give Love This Christmas… No Really, I Mean It!

The modern holiday season would not be complete without the many jewelry ads calling men to “give love this Christmas”.  These ads are the epitome of the commercial Christmas spirit.  “Give her the rock and she will love you forever…or at least you won’t sleep alone on New Year’s Eve”.  “Show the depths of your affection with something really, really expensive.”

          Now don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not opposed to the occasional luxury in one’s life.  If diamonds are your thing, then enjoy!  It is the association of giving luxury items with love that troubles me.  Do we truly believe that the cost of the gift indicates the size of the sentiment behind it?  And if so, why? 

          We could take the easy way out of this dilemma and blame it on Hallmark.  Those evil holiday merchants and advertisers have conspired to make us spend beyond our means to prove our undying devotion.  There may be a grain of truth to this; but that still does not answer the “why” question.  Why do we fall for the hype?

          One reason may be that things are easier to connect with than people. We live in a busied world where there never seems to be enough time for life’s most essential connections.  The obligations of work and home life often take precedence over quality family time, spiritual time and personal time. 

          Faced with limited energy and few opportunities to nurture our love relationships, we opt to let a gift express our love.  The gift takes on the awesome responsibility of making up for our lacks in the love department.  What we give symbolizes the love we would give if only we could find the time. 

          Our gifts stand in for us like understudies in a play.  If we can’t be present to perform the daily actions that real loving entails, the gift is there.  The card that accompanies it knows all the right lines and delivers them with enthusiasm.  But when the shiny wrapping is torn apart and the holiday a memory, the realization hits us.  The star of this play did not perform tonight. 

          Then again, perhaps we place so much value upon the gifts we give and receive because we place so little value on ourselves.  We somehow get the twisted notion that our gifts are an accurate measure of our self-worth.  They reveal the value we would like people to place upon us.  People to whom we give more will value us more; and people to whom we give less will value us less. 

          In a related and equally twisted way, we often value ourselves more when we can give bigger and better things.  The idea of giving time and sharing yourself with another person will not seem valuable to one who does not value herself.   Receiving a small or inexpensive gift may be taken as a slight to one who already thinks he is not good enough.  However, the giving or receiving of an expensive gift says, if only in a fleeting way, “You are associated with something great.  You must be great too!”

          But perhaps the most common reason we buy into the “give love at Christmas” hype is simply and utterly positive.  It feels good to give!  What person, if they have the choice, would not give the best of everything to those they love? 

          The Christmas season, in a way, gives us permission to be bold and impractical in our expressions of love.  It reminds us that while it is the thought and spirit that count, it is OK to put your money where your mouth is once in awhile.  Seeing the delight on the faces of those you hold dear is worth six extra months of credit card interest. 

          So, whether by great gifts, sumptuous meals, joyous carols or family traditions, be certain that your every action this holiday shows those you love in a direct and unmistakable way just how much you care for them.  If possible, take that love from your family to those who are less fortunate. 

          Give to a food or toy drive.  Let the little ones toss the change into the Salvation Army’s red kettles.  Volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen.  Participate in religious services.  In whatever way seems best to you and yours, share the love you have been given.  It will only grow and strengthen as you give it away.

          Make love the focus of your holiday choices and you cannot go wrong!

Dr. Janice Staab is a philosophical counselor and life coach. For more information on her services or to schedule your free consultation, e-mail info@lifesignscoaching.com. You can also check out her Web site at www.lifesignscoaching.com.

A Little Gratitude Goes a Long Way

For many of us, Thanksgiving is the official start of holiday insanity. ‘Tis the season to stuff our faces silly with turkey and all the trimmings … and to gain 5-10 pounds in the process. `Tis the season to run around like headless chickens amidst the crowds of crazed shoppers on “Black Friday.”

‘Tis the season to eat too much, spend too much, do too much and rest too little.

But Thanksgiving is also the start of the season when folks tend to be a bit nicer than usual. ‘Tis the season of giving as well as receiving. ‘Tis the season that anticipates beauty and song. ‘Tis the season to be better than we are.

Which kind of holiday season would you rather experience? Either one is equally possible. You can either wallow in the madness and get ready for a 2011 collapse, or determine to keep joy in your heart all season long.

Choosing joy can be made all the easier by recalling the deeper meaning of Thanksgiving. `Tis the season to be grateful. Instead of allowing Thanksgiving to become just another source of stress and frustration, use it as an excuse to attend to what you value most.

Many of us simply need to stop whining about what we don’t have and pay attention to our many gifts! A little gratitude goes a long way!

Begin the holidays by listing all the things for which you’re grateful. Start with daily blessings and work your way through the past week, month and year. If you’re like many of us, you’ll be gently reminded of how wonderful your life really is.

Personally, I am grateful for friends and family who keep me sane when I am going crazy and drive me nuts when life becomes too bland. I am grateful for my canine “alarm clocks” who wake me up each morning with their cold noses and warm hearts.

I’m grateful for unexpected humor that makes me chuckle to myself for days. I treasure those startling moments of humanity that renew my faith and optimism for the future.

I’m grateful for good work, a good challenge and a good cause to promote. I appreciate the efforts of all persons who are willing to actively put their lives on the line for the people and things they value most.

I cherish the creativity of children and the hope that dwells in their imaginations.

I’m grateful for good food for my body and soul, and the health and strength it creates. I daily relish the fact that my body does what I ask it to do.

I’m grateful to live in a country where (at least ideally) community is of at least as much value as individual talent and strength… and vice versa. I’m grateful that in spite of radical and often stark and childish differences, this country is still capable of healing after a fall.

I am grateful for divine guidance, costly grace and love freely given. I am grateful to and for dedicated teachers and profound wisdom.

I am grateful to be a gifted woman and to be more aware of my giftedness than I have ever been. I am happy to have finally attained a level of confidence and determination that increasingly does justice to these gifts. I am grateful that saying this does not make me feel proud or arrogant … just more grateful!

What are you grateful for? Whatever is it, start your holiday season by celebrating it! Peace! And Happy Thanksgiving!

Dr. Janice Staab is a philosophical counselor and life coach. For more information on her services or to schedule your free consultation, e-mail info@lifesignscoaching.com. You can also check out her Web site at www.lifesignscoaching.com.

Who You Callin’ A Bitch?

I heard it again today. The young woman who said it seemed attractive and intelligent.  She was surrounded by friends and had a vibrant smile on her face.  I could see the spark in her eyes from a block away.  I could also hear from a block away when she laughed aloud and proudly announced to the world “I am such a bitch”.

 The word flew from her lips with such ease and comfort.  There was no doubt or hesitation in her voice.  Clearly, she had said this many times before.  And clearly she meant it.

This negative pattern of speaking about ourselves should come as no surprise.  Turn on the TV or see a movie.  Female characters regularly spout off words that not long ago would have been reserved for the most diehard chauvinists.  We hear it in our music, our literature and now from the mouths of our children.  Did I mention that this young woman couldn’t have been more than 10 years old? 

I often wonder whether women think about the history and meaning of the word “bitch” and its relatives when they speak.  I have said it; and I inevitably feel a bit uneasy when I do.  But there are times when I really hear myself. I hear every man or woman who has ever called me a bitch.  I hear my younger self using the word about the obnoxious girls in my class.  I hear female friends and mentors using the word as if it were a compliment.

At these times, when I let the full impact of the word bitch hit me, I feel a little nauseous and more than a little guilty.

I also wonder if women have always spoken this way or if it is a new phenomenon.  Did Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony speak of themselves using such glowing terms?  Does Gloria Steinem call herself a bitch?  How about Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama or any woman who wields power and influence?  Do these women demean themselves with their own language? Do they do so without a second thought?

 No doubt some will say that calling yourself a bitch is not demeaning at all.  It is about reclaiming control over the word and using it as a symbol of personal power. “Babe In Total Control of Herself” or something to that effect.  Infusing a degrading label with positive meaning makes the word our possession and lessens its impact on us when others use the word in a derogatory manner.

This would make sense if words were no more than personal possessions; but they are not. Words are social creatures.  They don’t exist in a vacuum.  Words bring their origins and histories along with them into new situations.  You can try to reclaim the word “bitch” and associate all the positive meanings you’d like with it.  But the abusive uses of the word do not just disappear because you decide not to pay attention to them.  They remain in your memory and in our collective experience.   Every time women use the word “bitch,” we allow the word’s abusive connotations an access road into our thoughts and emotions.

Moreover, other people hear what you say and not always what you mean.  A committed sexist, for example, could take your words as confirmation of his own prejudices and an excuse to treat you as an inferior.  After all, the word in its negative usage was born of an attempt to label women as not quite fully human.  And this usage has done extensive harm to countless women over the years.  Why should anyone assume you mean something positive by the word?

If a sexist does not hear, your daughter and the girls on her soccer team might.  Perhaps the girl I heard today was your daughter.  Would the word ring differently in your ears if your child was saying it instead of you?

Sure, we can recycle words; but it isn’t always wise to do so.  I will go out on a limb here and flatly say it. Some words just cannot and should not be recycled. We can find better language with which to empower ourselves.

Think of it this way.  If you were drinking from a carton of juice and saw the words “100% recycled paper” on the side of the box, you probably would not think twice about it.  However, what if you saw the words “100% recycled toilet paper”?  Would you put the box down or keep on drinking?

Recycling sexist language gives us a similar choice.  Will we drink in the words and taste them on our own lips as though their histories do not matter?  Or will we once and for all spit them out because they were born of a filthy place in the human heart? 

The decision ultimately rests with every individual.  But before you decide, answer this question.  Does the word you want to recycle contain the sort of wisdom, integrity and kindness by which you would like your daughter to live her life?  Got your answer?  OK.  Now speak your answer with a strong voice; and teach your daughter to do the same.

Dr. Janice Staab is a philosophical counselor and life coach. For more information on her services or to schedule your free consultation, e-mail info@lifesignscoaching.com. You can also check out her Web site at www.lifesignscoaching.com.

Speak for Yourself: Finding and Using Your Voice

I was chatting with a woman in the dog toy aisle the other day.   She looked to be older than her age (probably about 25).  The thinness of her body and her skin seemed to mask a far more dangerous thinness of soul.  As we made small talk about our canine kids, her pale blue eyes rarely left the floor.  Occasionally she would glance from side to side as if worried about being seen.  I did not know what to make of it.

Suddenly, her body tensed, her head lifted high and the color drained from her cheeks.  Her eyes, now more gray than blue, stared at me.  “I am gonna get killed.  He does not like it when I talk to people.”  At that moment, my eyes caught hers like a deer in the headlights.  I now knew what had her on her guard.

From behind the next aisle, an insistent male voice shouted “Come On”!   The woman smiled a small smile as if asking my permission to leave.  I smiled back letting her know I understood.  Then, I made a mental note to myself to always have The Women’s Center contact information handy…just in case.

This woman’s story is a powerful object lesson for us all.   We have at last come to a point in our history when a woman can serve as Speaker of the House.   Yet, daily I meet and work with women who lack the confidence to speak up for themselves.

Some of them are victimized by the abusive voices of husbands or bosses.  Others allow their children’s voices to ring more powerfully in their ears than their own.  Some play amateur psychologist to vulnerable friends.  Such women spend so much time attending to the voiced needs and demands of others that they simply have no time and energy left to listen to their own hearts.  However, by far the most persuasive voice that keeps a woman from living a fulfilling and happy life is HER OWN VOICE.

Are you surprised?  Think about it for a minute.  Have you ever spoken to or of yourself in an abusive way?  Do you immediately negate a compliment from another person by thinking “They are just saying that,” or “If they knew the real me, they would say something different”?   Do you deride yourself for not being good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough, rich enough, honest enough?

Is there a voice in your head that constantly yells “Come On”!   What does she say?  “Come On!  You can do better than that!”  “Come On!  They need you!”  “Come On!  If you don’t do this, no one will!”  “Come On!  Why can’t you get it together?”  “Come On!  What were you thinking?  They’ll never trust you that much!  You can’t do that!  Why don’t you just give up?”

Do not fool yourself into believing that only weak, wimpy women speak this way.  I have heard these exact phrases from the mouths of female business owners, doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, incredible mothers of equally incredible kids, community leaders and other personally and professionally accomplished women who make the world better just by their presence in it.

And it is precisely this fact that never ceases to astound me.  Women who can meet every standard of excellence that the world has to offer remain unable to see themselves as excellent.  Women who are respected by their families, colleagues, employees, friends and communities are unwilling to honor themselves.

It is possible some biological aspect of femaleness compels women to nurture and comfort others before (or often instead of) attending to their own needs.  Or perhaps, in spite of political and social changes, we as women are still buying into the notion that womanhood is somehow second class humanity.   Then again, maybe women are so caught up in becoming successful according to the standards of a male-dominated world that they come to see their femininity as a hindrance to professional advancement.

Perhaps all of these things contribute to the problem; perhaps none do.  In the end, it does not really matter which view is right.   For all of these assumptions leave a woman in the same sad place:  speaking with a voice that is not her own, silent about her own greatness and vocal about her flaws.

Ladies, let’s promise ourselves that we will stop our inner verbal abuse today.   Take the old adage that I am sure you’ve heard from your mothers and apply it inwardly.  If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything!  This does not mean that you should stop being self-critical.   Just be sure your self-criticism is justified, needed and delivered in a respectful manner.

Yes, this change will likely be difficult.  But all great things in life are difficult in some way.  And it may feel strange at first.  But all real growth feels strange at first.  What matters most is that we women stop running ourselves down and start building ourselves up.  Whether our voices inspire a child, a company or a community, they will sound all the more authentic and convincing when our inner voices inspire us.

Dr. Janice Staab is a philosophical counselor and life coach. For more information on her services or to schedule your free consultation, e-mail info@lifesignscoaching.com. You can also check out her Web site at www.lifesignscoaching.com.

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