I grew up in a rather loving household with adults and friends who cared for me, yet I was constantly told I was an ugly kid, which marked the beginning of my journey from self-hatred to making a living out of helping others find their own worth.
For starters, no one was intentionally trying to be hurtful.
I was raised in a culture that not only had its own set of beauty standards but also viewed remarks about one’s appearance in public as perfectly acceptable. As a result, during my childhood, I was constantly told my eyes were not big and sparkly enough, my lips were not thin and delicate enough, and the hope was for me to grow out of my ugliness so I could one day emerge as a beautiful swan. My father, whom I love very much, even suggested on multiple occasions that he would pay for a double-eyelid surgery to transform my monolids.
It’s no surprise that I grew up with low self-worth. My decades of crippling self-sabotaging patterns resulted in frequent doctors’ visits, abusive relationships, and unsatisfying career, and a ton of "I wanted to say no, but I had to say yes" situations in life because I was dominated by the narrative of "I suck."
For the longest time, my happiness meter was at an all-time low, but I never questioned the validity of my inner voice. I believed it was protecting me from harm even though it most often reduced me to self-loathing.
The journey of healing and reclaiming self-worth was a long one with many layers, tears, doubts, and hesitations. However, having experienced the love and light on the other side and having assisted many to embrace their own true worth, I want to let you know that it absolutely can be done—the minute you shed the layers of how others see you in their minds, you will start to see your magnificence, which has been yours all along.
These are the five coaching inquiries I share with my students and clients to help them free themselves from disempowering inner-voices:
1. Ask your emotions, "Why?"
Whether you know it or not, your emotions are inner communications indicating to you whether what you're doing at present is in alignment with your own truth.
There is a reason you feel scared, hurt, or angry. Contrary to the common misconception that negative emotions are not OK and we should do whatever we can to stay positive, the more you avoid facing negative emotions, the more that energy gets trapped in your system, staying "bottled up" for longer than it needs to.
Action item: The best thing to do here is to honor yourself by embracing whatever emotions surface, and allow yourself to feel. Afterward, ask yourself, "In order for me to feel this way, what thoughts about myself and the world must I believe in?"
2. Make a list of sabotaging thoughts.
Find a peaceful time to sit with yourself where you won’t be rushed or disturbed and jot down any thought that comes to mind about why you felt that negative emotion. Explore the layers and be honest, but understand the key to this exercise is to bring awareness to what is hurting you rather than criticizing yourself.
If you are prone to self-judgment, I recommend setting a time and doing this work in your sacred space, after meditation, yoga, or with a counselor, healer, or coach.
Action item: After coming up with a list, ask yourself, "Whose thoughts are these, and are they absolutely true?"
3. Release negative energy.
Everything is energy in this universe, and you do not need to hold on to the energy of others’ baggage.
You can perform a release ritual with that piece of paper that holds all the false ideas about why you cannot love yourself. Some of the ways to release are:
- lighting a candle and setting the paper on fire while imagining breaking free of these crippling words.
- burying the piece of paper in earth knowing the burden is no longer yours.
- crossing out those words and writing loving new statements about the things you do like about yourself, where you want to go, and who you want to be.
Action item: Ask yourself, "What else can I let go of that does not belong to me?"
4. Rewrite your story.
When confronted with any situation, two individuals can have two very different responses, and that is because the way we experience any reality is always filtered through our perception. You choose how you want to respond to any given situation, past or present.
One of my abusive relationships left me with over a decade of PTSD, chronic insomnia, and an addiction to sleeping pills until I decided to give it a new meaning. I became grateful for the power of my choice and voice. When I was able to recognize that, I felt freer from the trauma, and my wounds began to heal, one by one.
Action item: Note that this step should not be forced. When you are ready, invite yourself to approach your pain with curiosity and ask yourself, "What is the gift underneath this experience, and how is it serving me in my growth?"
5. Find your own voice.
As the harsh voices of "I can’t" and "I’m a failure" inside your head slowly fade, a subtle and more loving voice will gently emerge. It is the voice that has been sending notes of encouragement and healing to you when you have been hiding from the world and the voice that has never judged or abandoned you since the beginning of this journey.
The more you tune into it, the clearer and more expansive it becomes until you realize this voice has been whispering to you and loving you all along—this is the voice of your heart.
Action item: Ask yourself every moment of every day, "What is my heart’s voice saying to me now?"