Black Hills Woman Magazine | Black Hills Woman Magazine: Relationships

Embracing Your Uniqueness
by Nicole Vulcan
Photo by Jenni Hahn Photography


You’re just about to shut the door and get out of the house when you think twice about the outfit you’ve chosen to wear. Maybe it’s a tad on the racy side, or maybe you’re judging yourself on the other end and thinking it’s too vanilla for the edgy crowd you’re sure to mingle with tonight. Whatever the case the worry overwhelms you, so it’s back into the house to rifle through the closet once again.

Meanwhile, your family is in the car, waiting for you to figure it all out. Why does this always seem to happen?. Why do you continually balk at letting yourself go where you instinctively want to, even when it’s also adding more stress to the rest of your family?

Turns out, you’re not the only one. Accepting ourselves—and not worrying about what other people are going to think about it—is a struggle for many women. As Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg (a la “Lean In” fame) continually puts it, women tend to suffer from lower self-esteem than men, especially in the workplace.

So what to do about it? How to overcome the self-esteem issues that plague so many of us, and to embrace our uniqueness, once and for all? One of the first steps is to take a good look at what you’re really afraid of, and then ask yourself where those fears stem from, says Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Lynell Rice-Brinkworth, who practices in Rapid City. A lot of times, says Rice-Brinkworth, people do things because somebody has certain expectations of them, and people simply don’t want to disappoint those around them. While it can be nice to be accommodating, it can also hold you back.

“Being yourself and being authentic is about being honest with yourself and being honest with the people around you,” says Rice-Brinkworth.

Building Connections

Creating a network of people who accept, understand, and support you is also key. “It takes courage to talk to your friends, your family, close people in your life to try to create that group to be able to accept you,” Rice-Brinkworth adds. “And still at the end of the day, you have to be willing to be who you are and work towards accepting yourself no matter what.”

Rapid City life coach Mary Maisey-Ireland agrees about building a network. “Part of what can support us in our journey of finding and expressing our uniqueness is finding our tribe, especially as women,” says Maisey-Ireland. “All of the stress research that was done in the early years that came up with ‘fight or flight’ was done on men. Now there is research over the last couple of decades, and what they’ve discovered is that what women do is something called ‘tend and befriend’ in the face of stress. It’s more about taking care of what’s going on in your immediate world and taking care of the people. We build networks.”

If you don’t already have that “tribe” that supports your authentic self, Maisey-Ireland suggests looking to community education classes or other groups where people seeking a similar experience are likely to congregate.

Meanwhile, there are the inner struggles that arise out of harsh judgments of ourselves… like the scenario of you in the closet, fussing over your outfit to the point of distraction. To address those issues, Maisey-Ireland recommends starting on the University of Pennsylvania’s “Authentic Happiness” site, where you can rate yourself on dozens of character traits and take a brief strengths test that helps you identify—or confirm—your top three strengths. “And then it’s about playing to your strengths. Even though the strengths are broad, look for where in your life you exhibit curiosity,” suggests Maisey-Ireland. After that, look for ways to plug into activities that address those curiosities, she says.

With Risk Comes Reward

Living as your authentic self does come with some risk—but like all risk, it’s one that comes with an opportunity for both personal and career success.

“If you look at a lot of people in a lot of different career fields, that risk is what took them to the next level,” reminds Rice-Brinkworth. And when all else fails, remind yourself that it’s your life, and it’s meant to be enjoyed. “Be playful and laugh about it!”

Rate your character traits at: https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu

Ellis Wellness

Mona Lisa Touch

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