Feeling different starts with looking and doing differently.

3 min read              Written by: René Luisman


René Luisman
Professional Trainer & Coach

I was about ten years old when I first realized that I was ashamed of myself. In my eyes there was so much wrong with me. For example, I had little aptitude for sports and music, my front teeth stuck out so much that I could barely close my mouth and my legs were scarred from a serious burn accident. And if that wasn't enough, I also discovered that I'm gay.


The discomfort I felt in the presence of others made me want to be invisible.


I also see this in the men I supervise. The feeling that there is something to be ashamed of. That a part of you isn't okay. That you do everything to hide this part or to pretend to be someone you’re not. So that no one notices the real you. And that is hard work.


You may recognize this. Then you probably also recognize that there is a voice that tells you that there is always something you could have done differently or better. Of course, you also know that things are going well. But your attention first goes to what in your eyes is wrong or could go wrong. And you are almost never proud or satisfied with yourself.


For a long time, I thought that the best way to help my clients was to track down negative and critical thoughts. Together I investigated the impact of these thoughts on a person's feelings and emotions. From there to see if there is a positive thought with which we could break the vicious circle of shame.


Sometimes that works. The client had a new belief that he actually could feel. Replacing a thought like "I shouldn't make mistakes" with "I may ask others for help" usually has an immediate effect on what you feel and do. And that gives a positive feeling.


And sometimes it doesn't work either. Simply because the negative thoughts about yourself are so entrenched in your system. From childhood they influence how you look at yourself and the world around you. Possibly the feeling of being different and shame arose before you could put words to it. It is then an illusion to expect that you can change this belief in a few steps. But what does work?


You can't just erase a negative self-image. Various studies* show that the best way to change a negative self-image is to build a positive self-image next to it. Or if there is already a positive image in the base, this can be reinforced.


If the image you have of yourself is mainly negative, then you would do well to look for positive facts about yourself. Write down daily what you are proud of, what you are satisfied with or what makes you happy. No matter how big or how small it is. This is a lengthy process, but you will notice that it gets easier over time.


And sometimes you need the mild eyes of the other to see what makes you unique. Ask people around you what they value in you. Listen, ask for a concrete example, give thanks and write down these qualities.


Feeling different starts with looking and doing differently.


* Based on studies by Padesky, 1994; Young & Klosko, 1993; Brewin, 2006; Korrelboom, 2011  

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