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A Clinical Psychologist On How To Claim Every Part Of Yourself — Even The Messy Ones

Risa Ryger, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist By Risa Ryger, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist
Risa Ryger, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, international speaker, and the founder of 93% Consulting. She is the host of the weekly show “Speak Your Mind With Dr. Risa Ryger” and on the advisory Council for Mindfulness Without Borders.
A Clinical Psychologist On How To Claim Every Part Of Yourself—Even The Messy Ones

Are you leaving parts of your "self" behind? Have you ever caught yourself saying things like, "I never...I always...I can't..."? 

Even as just whispers (or screams) in our heads, these self-limiting beliefs can keep us from moving forward and building confidence. To live fully and authentically, we must break down these beliefs, rewrite the stories of ourselves, and discover what I like to call self-ownership. 

What is "self-ownership"? And what does it look like in practice?

For over 20 years, I've been working with people in my private psychology practice. And I've seen so many of them respond positively to a term I created and trademarked called "self-ownership." 

Self-ownership is the foundation that holds on to and integrates your experiences in the continuing growth and evolution of you. Disruptive self-ownership is a process that helps you break down the walls of disconnection inside of yourself and frees you to experience and claim your wholeness.

It helps you dispel outdated beliefs about yourself, break through what's holding you back, and claim the control, confidence, and presence that's yours.  

Picture this: I was leading a workshop for a group of professional, successful women. I paired them up and instructed them to say something positive about their partner. Within seconds, the room was filled with lively voices and laughter.  

However, in the second part of the exercise, each woman was supposed to say something positive about themselves to their partner. What happened? Dead silence.  

The contrast between the ease of sharing about their partner versus saying something positive about themselves was dramatic.

I finally broke the silence and explained why this part of the exercise proved so difficult for a room full of competent, accomplished women: We tend to overvalue our deficiencies and undervalue our accomplishments.  

We then returned to the exercise. Slowly and with obvious discomfort, the women began to share one positive thing about themselves.  

One woman, Julia, realized that she had been holding on to a deeply entrenched belief that she shouldn't voice her opinion. We began to dispel this belief and created a plan for her to use her voice using the Disruptive Self Ownership Process outlined below.  


A 3-step process for achieving self-ownership:

Step 1: Stop believing you can leave parts of yourself behind.

Although "I've left that part of myself behind" is a common saying, from my expertise, it's not possible to erase a part of your life—as much as you might wish you could. 

All of your experiences are part of you and take up space inside of you. What you believe was "left behind" is still there and keeping it "out of mind" requires energy. This energy could be used in more constructive and positive ways. 

Let's follow Julia, who realized she believed that she had no opinions nor should she voice any even if she did. I told her that she cannot simply leave that part of herself behind, as if that aspect of herself did not exist. Her belief was neither real nor true. 

Step 2: Identify a part of yourself that you have disowned.

The second step is to identify a part of yourself that you have "left behind," abandoned, or disowned. You can't change what is out of your awareness. There are likely old, painful, or uncomfortable beliefs that you associate with that part of yourself. Identifying them can help you move forward.  

Ask yourself: "How did I come to have this belief? Did someone make hurtful comments to me? Was I shamed? Really, how bad is that part of myself?"

Keep in mind, again, that we often overvalue our deficiencies and undervalue our positive attributes and accomplishments. In Julia's case, she asked herself these questions and realized that in her past, she was not only not listened to, but she was also told to "butt out" and got the message that no one was interested in her opinion.


Step 3: Write down three aspects of yourself or your accomplishments that make you proud.

Write them down several times! I'd recommend keeping a list in your wallet or purse. Or, put one on your mirror, on the fridge, or on your door. When your confidence is feeling shaky, take it out and read it to steady and reconnect with yourself.

Julia's three were "I am kind and a good friend"; "People can count on me"; and "I am a contributing team member at work."

Julia kept her list in her purse and reread it before gatherings. She started small but gradually continued to share her opinion with more people over time. She expected a tsunami of criticism from sharing her thoughts...but it never came.

The bottom line.

I believe, and I know, that we are not only built for change but that positive change can happen at any time. Take these steps with you on your journey to self-ownership. Bring all of yourself into what you do, into your life, in the wholeness and integration of you. Especially bring the messy parts. They hold value and could be exactly what you might need today!

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