Questions and Answers

I've received many frequently discussed questions during my consultations regarding Personal Development over the past few of years, so I've decided to share some of the common ones with you (the names have been omitted in order to protect privacy).

I hope that you find them valuable and informative, as well as relevant to some of your own situations.

Thank you everyone!

Q. You talk a lot about loving the self and a healthy self-concept. Isn't that somewhat selfish or self-centered?

Like most things in life, therein lies the paradox. For example if you were starving, it would be the most important thing in your life and your first priority. Nothing would matter until you were fed; not fame, not money, not fancy clothing.

As Abraham Maslow states in his hierarchy of needs, if your biological and physiological needs aren't met, nothing else matters. Likewise, if you don't love and accept yourself you will always be searching to fill that big gap and sometimes in unhealthy ways if you're desperate enough e.g. promiscuity, addictions, self-defeating behaviors. As we have witnessed in the entertainment industry, many successful, wealthy and attractive have led unhappy, sometimes tragic lives because they didn't love themselves in a healthy, accepting manner (Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Judy Garland). This, of course, is in contrast to what can be termed as narcissism - a personality disorder, which is both 'unhealthy' and extreme.

Q. What can I do to get motivated? Lately I've felt no motivation for anything. 

Ultimately all motivation must come from within. No one can make you want to do something.

You have to decide what is worthwhile in life. Does wanting to stay healthy motivate you? How about being the best that you can be?

If you don't learn to motivate yourself you will stagnate, become boring and bored, and life will just go downhill from there. Take initiative and start somewhere. Work out, read, and do whatever you can to improve yourself. You'll be surprised how once you start, you will build the desire and motivation to continue.

Q. What is the best action to take when nothing else works? Where do you run?

Sometimes the actions you take work, and other times they don't, however, running away never helps. First of all, you can't run away from yourself and secondly, the problems are still there waiting to be solved.

Facing life, your fears etc. and doing some "critical thinking" is the best approach. The solutions may not always be perfect, however, you build courage, problem solving skills and self-confidence in the process.

Q. I do not like myself and I having been feeling really sorry for myself lately, what can I do?

First of all if you don't like yourself, how can you expect anyone else to like you?

Secondly, feeling sorry for yourself can be a waste of time. Make the decision to start working on self-acceptance and self-confidence.

It will take effort and action on your part but if you make the commitment to improve, you will do it.

Q. How do I make life worth living again? I'm so depressed and so lonely. It seems I am only surviving minute by minute.

Start with yourself. Make the decision that you won't let it beat you. You have the ability to change your thinking and perspective. Everything is how you choose to see it. No doubt, it's difficult to change your mindset, especially if you're used to one way of looking at things, however, it's necessary. There are many things we all have to be grateful for, such as freedom, opportunities, decent heath etc. Our job is to make the most of it. All the best to you!

Q. Lately I've been feeling emotionally numb? What can I do to change that?

There are times when we all feel numb. There could be a variety of reasons for this both physical and emotional. Sometimes we're just drained or worn out.

The best thing to do is ride it out, however in the meantime take care of yourself by eating properly, getting plenty of sleep and exercising.

Q. How can I learn to love, embrace, and accept parts of my physical appearance that other people see as ugly and reject?

If you don't love and embrace yourself, you can't really expect anyone else to. If there is something you can do to improve your looks such as lose weight, learn what styles and makeup suit you best, and which of your good features to accentuate, then do so. If there is not, you must learn to accept yourself as you are.

Certainly looks are not the measure of a person. The heart, mind and soul are. Perhaps you've seen the movies or know the stories of 'Beauty and the Beast' or 'Cyrano de Bergerac' and the lessons they offer.

I've known many people who were beautiful at first glance but after they opened their mouths and revealed their personalities they were suddenly somewhat unattractive. Likewise, I've met seemingly unattractive people, but after I've gotten to know them, they were beautiful to me because they had a good personality and/or were very intelligent and had much to offer.

If you feel you will never be attractive enough (according to some societal standards) then develop other aspects of yourself such as your personality and attractive qualities such as kindness, humor, generosity and intelligence.

Looks aren't everything and as everyone knows, they don't last forever. Some have thought Barbra Streisand, or Fred Astaire or Liza Minnelli aren't attractive, but they've made the best of their looks and who they are. I, myself find that a person who has character, is fit, yet not conventionally good looking, to be more interesting. It's all in how you see and conduct yourself.

Self-acceptance and self-confidence may take practice but they're worth working on. If you exude self-acceptance and confidence others will accept you as well.

Q. I just had my worst job interview ever and I feel like a terrible failure and that everything in my life is falling apart. What should I do?

After having had many terrible interviews myself, I know how you must feel. Sometimes it was because I was not well prepared; other times it was bad chemistry and more often than it should be - bad interviewing. Needless to say we all have off days, so to have a bad interview is not so unusual.

My advice is that after you get over your disappointment of how things went, the best thing you can do is learn from it. My guess is you've already learned to be better prepared.

Right now your perception is a bit distorted because things didn't go smoothly. Treat this as a challenge and an opportunity to improve your interviewing skills. Deep down you know how good you really are! Don't let this one incident skew your perspective .

All the best! You will do better next time!

Q. How do I stop being insecure, fearful and shy? People are afraid to approach me because they think I'm boring, stuck-up or anti-social.

I think that you're biggest obstacle is fear. In order to overcome the shyness and inability to approach people you have to put yourself out there. At first it will be unnatural, extremely difficult and go against every fiber of your being; however, in order to prevail you must do it. Start small at first. Say hello to people and smile. Stand straight and act comfortable, even though we know you aren't. Practice beforehand what you could say to people. Learn to visualize possible scenarios.

No matter what, fear or not, you will have to push yourself to get beyond your comfort zone if you want to become more social and friendly with others. Nothing is easy at first. It may not even work out well at the first attempt, but you must keep trying. Commit and make the effort to change.

Q. I have real problems with controlling my anger. What can I do?

As I'm sure you're aware, we humans are emotional beings. If we are to live mature, productive lives we must learn to manage our emotions, both the positive and negative. If we do not, we risk harming our relationships, being miserable and not accomplishing what we want.

To manage any emotion, anger included, we must exercise self-discipline, critical thinking and common sense. This of course does not happen automatically, it takes practice, practice, practice.

When you get angry, ask yourself these questions (some critical thinking) :

* Why am I angry?
* What can I do about it?
* Will taking action help or hurt me in the long run?
* What does it accomplish to be or stay angry?

Once you take time to assess your anger, first, it helps you cool down, and secondly, it makes you consider the options. Once you've done that, your anger is put in perspective and you may find yourself no longer angry.

If it is something that has continuously made you angry, you must consider the source and deal with it. This may mean accepting a situation or changing it.

Q. Why should we accept and help others when there are so many people that take advantage of us and never give anything in return?

Unfortunately there are always those who take advantage of others. It is both unfair and unethical. If you are the person who has tried to help others and they are not grateful and want more, then you are under no obligation to do it.

Helping others is a good thing, but not when they don't try to help themselves. You do not have to cave into their demands, nor do you have to accept anything that is against your better judgment, or your values.

When I talk about 'acceptance', I mean that you should accept that which you cannot change, mostly because you have no choice. If you can change it, then do so.

If you let things you have no control over bother you, then you are harming your peace of mind.

Q.I think I don't have passion for my job anymore. I just drag myself into work each day. Should I change my job?

Right now you have a job where you're not fulfilled. If you're thinking of quitting or finding another job, make sure you have a nest egg to fall back on. It's never a good idea just to leave without anything to fall back on.

These days few of us stay in the same jobs our whole lives. While you're still there, however, make the best of it and learn everything you can to sharpen your skills. This will make you more employable and attractive to other companies. Also, brainstorm what you do and don't want in a job (your priorities). If you leave and don't know what you want, you may find yourself in the same boat, or even worse off.

Here's one of my favorite quotes that says it all "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." Plan for finding another more fulfilling job. Look to see what's out there before making the plunge. You may even decide to stay put.

Q. I love to eat and should lose some weight, but I don't know whether it's worth it for me to change my habits and give up food for a thinner body. What should I do?

If this is a question of accepting your body versus losing weight, the answer is that good health should always be your first consideration. If you're not model thin, it's okay! Few of us are, or should be. Your health, however, is absolutely worth working at. Everything you do now to take care of yourself will pay off as you get older. Find a way to balance eating healthily with enjoying your food. There are many tasty, nutritious meals you can cook. Never sacrifice your health for anything!

Q. No matter what, I never feel I'm wrong! When I fight with people I always feel as if I am right and they are wrong! Can you please tell me how to see through things because I'm losing friends?

You mention that you always "feel" that you're right. Is that the same as "knowing" that you are?

You must know that no one is always right, no matter how strongly they feel about an issue. It's great to have conviction, but that's not the same as being right.

It's important to think your position through and try and see the issue from another's point of view as well. To only see it from your own point is self-centered and one sided and often, in the end, incorrect.

It's time to stretch yourself and do some critical thinking. Real knowledge comes from being open-minded and willing to explore more than just your own ideas.

Q. How do I acquire self validation? Sometimes people criticize me or treat me like I don't matter so I find it hard to have a good opinion of myself. Instead I let their opinions define me. What can I do?

As you are already aware, growing up without a lot of encouragement and validation from parents makes it more difficult to have a healthy self-concept. Without that kind of confirmation, a person is more sensitive to criticism from others, believes he/she doesn't matter, and of course, has a low opinion of themselves.

Without that continuous support it makes it more difficult to have self-confidence in a culture that challenges the psyche at every turn.

More difficult, however, does not mean impossible, so good for you that you are willing to work at it!

That leaves you with the challenge of building yourself up. Know that it will be an ongoing process and one that requires patience, perseverance and consistently applying yourself. There will be days that you feel it will never happen and days that you want to give up - but don't.

Start by acting like you have self-confidence, even when you don't. It will help keep people from treating you poorly. Like animals, we can sense weakness or vulnerability in others and those less scrupulous of us can take advantage of it.

Know that you are a worthy, valuable person and act accordingly. Use visualization and affirmations techniques to speed up the process of building yourself up. This will help you define yourself rather than let others do it for you.


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