It’s Women’s Month, a time to celebrate the energy of the feminine and the power of being a woman in this world.
What does this all mean for women in South Africa and elsewhere, not just this month, but at all times?
Last year, I had the honour of presenting a talk about the power of transforming our suffering into something powerful, which allows for a deeper connection to ourselves, our divinity and life itself.
Some women approached me afterwards to thank me for inspiring them that day.
They spoke of how they had been through severely challenging experiences, including being carers during terminal illness and death of loved ones, yet they had felt that what they had done was of no significance and that they themselves were unimportant.
These women were clearly giving to others so generously, yet perceived themselves as worthless and undermined their generosity and kindness. I was amazed at their deep sense of connection to others, generosity of spirit and sense of community – such important aspects of humanity. But it really struck me that many of them thought so little of themselves, often putting themselves down, undermining who they are and what they do.
Many women in our communities live in an environment where they have to endure really challenging experiences daily, including having to nurture, educate and raise children, run a home (both emotionally and physically)and take care of extended family, among other things, often while holding a full-time job.
This all often leaves them emotionally and physically exhausted and depleted of energy, yet they continue day in and day out to fulfil these tasks.
I am not surprised that many of these women get into a mode of putting their own needs on the back-burner, get into a rut of saying to themselves they are not important and what they do must just be done, finished and klaar.
But, learning to value yourself does not have to take too much time or cost any money. What helps is to generate a degree of self-understanding and self-compassion.
Low self-esteem is seeing yourself as inadequate, unacceptable, unworthy, unlovable and incompetent. These beliefs create negative, self-critical thoughts that affect your behaviour and your life choices, often lowering your self-esteem even further.
For many women, it is often the case that as young girls they were undermined by those around them and are rendered more receptive to negative societal messages about women, their bodies and their general worth in society.
However, it is our responsibility to find ways to boost ourselves sufficiently so that we can live a more fulfilling life and be good role models to our children.
In loving and valuing ourselves, we enable more loving encouragement of our children in the manner in which we speak to them and about them.
One way we can increase our self-esteem is to use the tools of mindfulness. We can learn to look at situations, other people and ourselves more objectively, without the negative influence of the past and with the awareness that in every moment you always have a choice in thought, word and deed. Following are a few mindfulness tips to increase a deeper sense of self-worth.
Live in the moment
This is the foremost principle that underpins mindfulness.
When you are focused on each moment while in it, you can choose your thoughts and actions consciously and wisely.
In each moment choose to be less affected by the hurts of your past and less concerned by worries or hopes about the future.
When we’re aware, we can recognise how we are responding and reacting to our own fears, creating a moment or pause between our emotions and our actions.
We can then choose to respond in a healthier way that will lead to healthier situations.
Write in a journal
Many of our thoughts and feelings are stored away in our unconscious mind and writing can help to bring them into our awareness.
Writing about the way we feel and think about ourselves, others and situations can help to separate negative ideas about ourselves from the truth of who we really are.
When we approach our lives non-judgementally, we simply accept ourselves, our experiences, our failures and successes and other people just as they are, neither good nor bad.
Stay connected to yourself
Mindfulness can help you to develop a sense of thoughtful connection to yourself and reduce people-pleasing ways by allowing you to stop the autopilot thinking and behaviour that keeps you jumping to please others without thinking of your own needs.
Practice mindful meditation
Meditation just means letting go of the racing thoughts in your mind and accepting that those thoughts, feelings and beliefs are transient, rather than parts of yourself. Take a few moments every day to simply be still, focus on your breathing and watch your worries drift away like clouds. This can be as little as five minutes a day or better, twice a day.
Develop a beginner’s mind
When you have a beginner’s mind, you look at things as if you are seeing them for the first time, with openness, eagerness and freedom from expectation or judgement. You can see things in a new light, rather than automatically responding with the same old patterns of thinking and behaving.
Non-attachment, or letting go, is the goal of mindfulness. When you let go of what you think you should do or who you should be, you can trust yourself and choose what’s right for you.
You deserve love as much as anyone else. Self-compassion means providing yourself with the love, safety and acceptance you need and that you would give to others.
Carin-Lee Masters is a clinical psychologist. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org Send a WhatsApp message or SMS to 082 264 7774.