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self esteem

5 Ways to Conquer Procrastination


5 Ways to Conquer Procrastination

Yesterday we talked about procrastination and how doing what your mind tells you is important and actually influences your self-esteem. Here are some tips I picked up from the "simplify"-newsletter I'm subscribed to. The newsletter is originally in German, so here's my (slightly edited) translation:

When you are procrastinating, if it's

because you don't have time,

you can

Pic Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pic Credit: Wikimedia Commons

  • get rid of tasks that block your project
  • prioritize your project over other responsibilities
  • plan your activities and allot time-slots in your calendar

because you don't like it,

you can

  • simplify, break down, shorten, or settle for good instead of perfect
  • delegate, or exchange tasks with someone who is willing
  • think what would happen if you dropped the project
  • find ways to only accept tasks you know you'll enjoy

because the sheer size of the project makes it seem insurmountable,

you can

  • break it down into small pieces
  • start with the smallest and easiest to build confidence

because you think you have no choice,

you can

  • ask yourself what's the worst that will happen if this doesn't get done
  • check whether your goals and attitudes have changed to make the project so cumbersome
  • check your expectations of yourself - who or what convinced you to take this on in the first place?

because you don't know how to handle it,

you can

  • ask for help, find a mentor, contact an expert
  • consider taking classes and participating in workshops to obtain the know-how

I know, sometimes we have to do things we don't want to or else (enter your dooms-day prediction here).

You know what? Maybe getting fired / losing the partner / gaining five pounds won't be the end of the world. There are very few things you absolutely will not be able to bounce back from. The important thing to remember is you always always always have a choice!

If you don't like the consequences of not doing something you have to, you may as well get it over with quickly. You will feel much better for it.

Don't believe me? Try it yourself: write down all the tasks you usually procrastinate on a piece of paper. Place them in a jar, and at the beginning of your day, pick one and do it, then and there. Take care of it, cross it off your list, and then try to tell me you're not proud of yourself.

Just imagine what it'll feel like when you look back over everything you've accomplished! You could even prepare a roster to put up on the fridge / cubicle wall and give yourself smiley stickers for every task you get done, if you're a visual person who gets motivated by smiley faces, that is.

Something that only very recently worked wonders for me was the concept of accountability. Who'd have thought that having a coach actually helps you get your act together and your ball rolling in the right direction?! But you get the idea - just do it, and I promise you'll be happier. Isn't that what we're here for, really?

Image by Kaos2, Flickr, Creative Commons License.


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Pic Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pic Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Do you know anyone who always gets their jobs done, is never behind on any commitment, keeps their promises, raises their children just like it's best for them, has never missed a deadline, balances their nutrition and checkbook, has time for regular exercise, and looks impossibly well groomed doing it all?

I don't.

Instead, I know many good people with great intentions, who find it hard to say "no", and who feel bad about themselves when life's circumstances get in the way of them finishing off their hopelessly overfilled plate of responsibilities.

Whatever our circumstances, we all have something we think we should be doing, but aren't. We do other stuff instead of that one thing, because we'll get to it later, we're just not quite ready yet, we don't feel like it, etc. In university, I took on extra shifts at the bar and even cleaned my room, dusted, and de-cluttered my desk before sitting down to write that essay. In life now I read books, write emails to or call my friends, and check up on internet gossip instead of going to the gym, preparing next week's blog post, or getting more into marketing my services. 

Let's be honest for a second - when you think you should be doing something but you're doing something else, you know you're procrastinating. You are aware of it, even if you're in denial - your subconscious knows what you're up to when you make a choice and spend your time and energy elsewhere. You do this thinking you'll feel better because obviously you prefer / it's easier / it's more fun doing what you're not supposed to.

But the truth is, procrastinating hurts your self-esteem in the long run.

Why? Because whether it's imaginary or not, the priority and importance you place on this task you're not doing won't go away by not looking at it.

Wow, those were quite a few negatives in one sentence, let's see if I can word it differently: Avoiding the gym, the conversation, the email, whatever thing you are not doing will haunt you until you do it. It won't matter that your house is hoovered or all your laundry is ironed, you'll still feel like you haven't accomplished anything today, because you didn't do what your mind tells you you should have.

More on that tomorrow. 

(From the archives, first published November 2008) 

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How gullible are you?


Singular gullibility Plural uncountable

gullibility (uncountable)

  1. The quality of readily believing information, truthful or otherwise, usually to an absurd extent. (Source: Wiktionary)

Did you fall for Bernie Madoff, like so many others?

Do you wait for boys to call, because they said they would?

Or are you maybe someone who takes advantage of others, because you can?

Pic credit: quinn.anya

I for one am very gullible, and I know it. Thankfully, most of the times I've been duped were harmless, and I was able to laugh at myself (eventually... after a certain period of "duh"-mortification).

Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D., wrote about gullibility on the Psychology Today blogs. I've summarized a concise bullet-point version for you below. For the complete articles and background explanations, please visit the PT blog here.

Dr. Seltzer holds doctorates in English and Psychology, and is a clinical psychologist and author of Paradoxical Strategies in Psychotherapy. He argues that people with negative beliefs about themselves may be at greater risk of becoming duped.

Have you said any of these to yourself lately?

  • I'm incompetent (or defective, inadequate, incapable, inept, slow, or stupid).
  • I'm not good enough (or, I can't be good enough).
  • I will fail (or, I can't succeed).
  • I'm foolish (or silly).
  • I'm not listened to (or taken seriously).
  • I'm a fraud.
  • I'm not really a grown-up.
  • I can't trust myself (or my judgment, perceptions, authority)
  • I'm not likeable.
  • I can't stand up for myself (or, I can't set limits on others).
  • My needs and desires don't matter.
  • My feelings don't count.
  • My feelings are stupid.
  • I'm weak (or, helpless, powerless, vulnerable).
  • I can't think for myself.
  • I can't take care of myself.

Dr. Seltzer admits that there is no concrete evidence (yet) on how these beliefs may influence gullibility, but I agree with his assumption that there is a common-sense correlation. Limiting beliefs are not unusual, and can be addressed by re-learning more helpful alternatives with your coach and/or counselor. As with everything, awareness is the first step to improvement.

He continues with a list of tips on how to become more aware in recognizing and avoiding moments of "dupidity", calling the following his "gullibility busters:"

  • Avoid acting on impulse (or, Take time to trust).
  • Beware the hasty generalization or rushed conclusion.
  • Cultivate doubt.
  • Don't take things at face value.
  • Assert yourself!
  • Respect your ambivalence.
  • Place your confidence in what's true--not what you'd like to think is true.
  • Learn from your mistakes.
  • Remember that anecdotes, however compelling, don't really prove anything.
  • Beware of so-called "authorities."
  • Don't let solicitors engage you.
  • Don't decide on anything when you're "under the influence."
  • Don't decide on anything when you're fatigued.
  • Keep your emotions under control.
  • Admit to yourself the limits of your knowledge or intellect.
  • Get another opinion.
  • Avoid temptation.
  • Become more self-sufficient and "self-liking."
  • Become more sensitive to non-verbal cues that you may be dealing with a fraud or "hustler."
  • Become more adept at reading others generally.
  • Get advice from people you trust.

Dr. Seltzer hopes this list will "enable you to cultivate a healthy skepticism--which in turn should "arm" you against those who view you only as an object for personal gain." He further recommends reading Greenspan's Annals of Gullibility and another one of his posts, "The Path to Unconditional Self-Acceptance."

Let me close with this great quote:

"Better to trust and be disappointed once in a while, than to distrust and be miserable all the time" - Coach John Wooden

At the end of the day, being mean and taking advantage of people speaks more negatively about the duper's character than the dupee's.



Thoughts on clothes

women-shopping-clothes_I was so tired and unmotivated yesterday that I decided to up and go for a walk around the community we live in. Said community is home to many shops, and like many women with a closet full of nothing to wear, I couldn't resist the huge display signs of "SALE! 50 % off!" Here's what happened.

First shop I went into had the sales racks in the back, and because I never pay full price if I don't have to, that's where I zoned in on. They weren't very busy during lunchtime, so a friendly sales assistant brought lots of stuff back for me to try, too. I must have tried five tops and three pairs of trousers, but nothing really fit nicely. This is why I hate shopping, it takes so long to find something that fits properly, is comfortable, chic, yet not too pricey. Five tops and three bottoms isn't that much, I hear you say? Well, I've no patience for the stuff, and don't even get me started on the lighting and the mirrors.

And then I tried on the dress. Knowing after countless trials and errors that I don't really have the body for a dress (I think I've worn maybe three dresses in my lifetime), when I slipped it on and it felt good that was the strangest sensation. Stepping out of the booth into the changing area with the big mirror, I still didn't hate what I saw in the reflection. On the contrary, thoughts of "statuesque" and "nice figure" came into my mind, and that's not something I've ever associated with my reflection or dress sense.

What I'm trying to express a little clumsily is how beautiful I felt in that changing room area with that dress on. As if it had some fairy dust on it to magically fills the nooks and crannies of my self-doubt with feelings of peace, love and balance. For the first time, I bought a piece of clothing because of how it made me feel. Yes, another thing I feel right now is silly sharing this, and I also wonder if it'll still feel the same the next time I put it on, and whether everyone's going to think "what hype, it's just a dress, and no it does not look good."

So I got to thinking: what influences the clothes we wear? How many billions of dollars are made and spent each year in the fashion industry? Do people really spend the better part of their lives pondering this stuff, like was explained in "The Devil wears Prada?" There must be a wide audience, otherwise what's the need for television series like "What not to wear" and "How to look good naked?"

I asked my twitter peeps, "When was the last time you dressed in clothes that made you feel awesome/sexy/professional/fill-in-your-adjective-of-choice?" to mixed replies. Michael said, "Today (three out of four ain't bad I guess)!" and Jerry said, "Never. Do people do that?" Curiosity piqued, I inquired further as to the purpose of his clothing. "Keep me warm. Prevent sunburn. Hide my skin to spare others." And this, dear readers, reminded me of Maslow's hierarchy of needs and motivation, masks we wear, and the emperor's new clothes.


According to his theory, all people have needs and are motivated differently according to which of their needs

Maslow's hierarchy of needs and motivation

have been met. He identified five different levels: physiological, safety, belonging, ego-status, and self-actualization. In very short, once your physical well-being is ensured through adequate housing, food, clothing and sex, you're free to worry about needs of the next higher order, safety. Once your health is taken care of, and you have a sense of stability and security, you can turn your attention to your needs of belonging. Once your social needs for relationships are met, you may be motivated to pursue fulfillment of the needs of your ego for prestige and accomplishment. The highest order of self-actualization motivates people to realize their potential through personal development. Like every theory, this one is being debated and criticized, but let's just go with the basic premise.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs and motivation

Applied to my clothing question, I can look at it from at least two angles. One, clothing is functional and serves a specific basic purpose, namely keeping us warm and protecting us, like Jerry said. Ever since our forefathers (careful, evolution talk now) started walking upright, built caves and lost their fur, bodies had to be shielded in other ways. Depending on the continent, our skin might have developed different pigmentation, but skin alone has not been sufficient to weather the elements since before the Puritans covered it all up.

Two, who's to say that functionality is all there is to clothes? I remember seeing brooches and belts in museums, documenting vanities from centuries ago. It appears to me mankind has started looking for ways to enhance basic clothing and looking to express their individuality many years ago. Wonder who the first cave person was to add a bone to their hair, and was it just to keep it out of the soup or a fashion statement? Just think of indigenous tribes and their tattoos, or piercings, colored feathers, teeth of animals slaughtered that are added as adornments. Clothing, then, must have become an expression of personality along the way, showing off status with how many hides you wear, and communicate an image of how you want to be perceived.

If your confidence and sense of self does are not influenced by how others see you or what image you communicate, you may grab whatever's in your closet and that will do the job and fulfill your basic physiological need. You may even go ahead and play with stuff and wear banana boots or zebra suits like my favorite Scotsman. However, there's a dress code for your hobbies, especially if they're sporty ones (Golf! Oh my God!), another for your job, yet another for Sunday afternoons lounging or going out with friends, and we haven't even touched on special occasions like funerals or weddings. Even though you may express your individuality and personal style through the clothes you wear and accessories you add, you're still part of the bigger picture, and that takes us back up the needs ladder to "belonging." A banker may not be taken seriously in jeans even on a casual Friday, and your geeky buddies may be less inclined to discuss the latest Star Trek movie with you if you show up in designer shades wearing gold chains and other "bling."

The way I see it, we're oscillating between the different levels of the pyramid, fulfilling needs of a higher order by embellishing the basic clothing one. What else could our sense of style imply?


I'm going to go out on a limb and say every culture has them. I'm thinking Africa, Asia, native Indians, even Europe with the Venetian carnival comes to mind. Whether beards and make-up also qualify I'll leave up to you. The purpose of masks are many, to deceive, to represent, to hide behind. Today, the clothes we wear function as a mask, sometimes to portray a certain image, sometimes to aid our self-esteem, sometimes to separate our private personality from our public persona, and in that respect we're not that different from the cave man with the saber tooth around his neck.

Business men wear suits, why? Because banks and other conservative establishments expect it. Suits communicate you're taking care of your appearance, and you're happy (oh well) to conform to the norm of your field. Some suits are better than others, but basically they're the armor of the contemporary manager. Personally, dressing in a suit influences the way I carry myself, not only as dictated by limited range of motion, but by what the suit represents. I walk a little taller and straighter, I'm a little more aware of what I'm wearing and how it looks, and yes, wearing one makes me feel more confident, professionally.

Women have been known to feel more confident or brazen depending on which underwear they put on. Silk feels sexy. Lace is uncomfortable if you ask me, but it looks nice. Anyway, well-fitting undergarments provide flattering curves, and flattering curves gain attention, and the confidence men and women exude used to directly influence their ability to procreate. To a lesser and more subtle extent, that's still the case today. Research has shown that strippers make more tips and are perceived as more alluring and beautiful during ovulation, and that's not even wearing but taking off their clothes, so I digress.

Creative types don't wear suits, and I'd probably count IT-ers into this category, too. Sneakers, t-shirt and jeans are fine! No programmer wears a suit, why? They mostly sit in front of a computer and have little outside contact to clients. In this case the image communicated through clothing is, "we're relaxed and comfortable, easy-going!" Work in the army, police force, firefighting or in health care and you're expected to wear a uniform. Your particular contribution, though highly appreciated and valued, serves the group and therefore the greater good. As part of a team you need to be easily identifiable as to position or rank, but your personality doesn't necessarily play into it.

Do you remember the punk movement of the 70s and 80s, people with spiky green hair scaring pedestrians all over Europe? Or the grunge phase where suddenly it was cool not to wash your hair for weeks? Rebelling against the establishments or their parents turned all of us self-proclaimed individuals into herds of sheep wearing the same things, looking alike. Not wanting to belong to one group makes every generation create their own, and sometimes that persona is put on with a lot of help by peer pressure. Which brings me to,

The Emperor's new clothes

Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale tells the story of an emperor who was conned by two tailors with a sense of humor into streaking (nude walking) through the streets of his empire. They promised him garments of such brilliant material that only fools and unworthy folk wouldn't recognize their beauty. Not wishing to admit he didn't see anything for fear of being named stupid or unworthy, the emperor faked enthusiasm when he received - nothing. The tailors mock-dressed him, and he walked unencumbered until a child pointed out, "but - he's nekkid!" and the people realized it was the truth.

Another time I may go into more detail on how clothes represent cultural preferences, as they are one of the explicit manifestations of culture visible to the naked eye (as opposed to cultural values that are implicit and invisible if you're not trained to look for them). Once I actually find an occasion to wear the above mentioned dress, I  might even let you know how it goes. For now, I leave you hoping whatever you wear makes you comfortable, and if your self-esteem isn't where you'd like it to be, I invite you to experiment with different clothes to see how they make you feel. See if a new pair of whatever can help you "fake it til you make it," without going into debt of course!

Til next week, have a good one. :-)

Top photo by Allegretto

Maslow's hierarchy as seen on skooloflife

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I tried to walk home from the gym with my eyes closed today. Guess what? I didn't last more than a few steps! It got me to thinking about my senses and intuition and gut feeling though. Here's why:

Last night, a friend and I came to the conclusion that "there's always something". Be it in a relationship, or work, or nutrition, or health, or well? Life in general! There's always something, isn't there? Something to worry about, to think about, to fret and vent about, even to cry, scream, and shout about. Then what usually happens? Anxiety. Dis-ease. Discontent. Fear. Sadness. Some things even get blown out of proportion and take up huge amounts of space in our heads and energy in our systems. And what for?

I'm a big fan of the venting and sharing, going over details of whatever situation is making me feel bad, sad, or mad. I usually feel a little bit better afterward, because it's not all bottled up inside me anymore, I got somebody else's opinion - sharing and communicating is great! The question I came to earlier today on my "blind" walk though was, what if I trusted my senses to know where to step? What if I trusted my feelings to guide me? What if - and this is a kicker - I trusted my self to be able to survive and figure out what to do, or not to do, in any given situation? And you know what? I felt bit tingly, as if my cells were whispering excitedly "ooh, that could be interesting, yeah! Let's try that!" but at the same time, calmer.

I invite you this week to look at what's causing you stress, anxiety, fear, sadness, and think about who you would be if you trusted yourself to know what to do. If you're not ready to address the cause of your pain, start with the symptoms. They can be crying for no apparent reason, overeating, procrastinating, fighting with your partner. What is it that your body and soul are already telling you that you're not hearing yet? Who told you that you can't trust yourself, where did you learn that your responses are wrong? Because, hey, what if they aren't?

Further thoughts: do you trust yourself more or less when you lose one of your senses? Can you trust yourself directly or do you go via a deity? Does having faith in yourself make you an atheist? Do you children trust themselves? How do you encourage or discourage them? Discuss!

Til next week, have a good one!


Image by Mukumbura, Flickr, Creative Commons License




I'd like to take this entry and talk some more about something we touched on in this post a few weeks ago.Allow me to paint you a wee picture. It's holiday season and we're looking through the window into the house at the end of the street. The whole family is there and about to sit down for a nice meal. The table-legs are aching under the weight of the splendid foods offered, there's a fire crackling in the corner and the mood is festive and happy. The young couple is a bit nervous as this is one of the first proper family encounters with the new in-laws. You see the woman take the first bite and choke - wow, she really doesn't like that food! She can hardly swallow without grimacing, poor thing... Why is nobody else screaming in horror? They all seem to be enjoying their meal!She gently taps her mouth with the napkin and sits still for a moment. The way you see it, she has two options: tell the truth and disappoint/insult/anger the cook and face a possible argument with her spouse or be sick for the next three days. What would you do?

The answer I'm going for is to tell the truth, and I don't see why that should create a problem. Yes, time and effort have been spent in order to prepare that meal, and she's the only one at the table who seems to have a problem with it while all the others are digging in and helping themselves to seconds. But there is a way to make everyone happy, and that's to behave in a congruent manner.

Congruence is a term most of us have tried to avoid since highschool geometry and algebra, but fret not - in the words of Billy Connolly: I have no intention of going there. In this case, congruence is the term for being true to yourself. I mean this not just in a fashion-sense, but rather in your dealings with yourself and in your relationships with other people. You may find it has to do with self esteem and honesty. As far as I'm concernced it's all interlinked, which means by changing one behaviour (or even just your attitude), you can change them all.

To be congruent implies that you laugh when you're happy and cry when you're sad, and what's more - you don't feel bad about it. You live according to your values and you're not afraid to admit to your fears. Being congruent also means giving unpleasant feedback, but if you find a way to communicate without putting blame on the other person, nobody's feelings will get hurt. In this case, the young woman has the option to thank the host for the wonderful meal and acknowledge the love that went into making it. She should then also be able to confess that it is not to her taste and ask if she can go fix herself a sandwich.

There's no point in being overly mortified or humble, because she should not have to apologise for her taste. She may want to acknowledge it if she thinks the situation is awkward, but I'm convinced the less of a deal one makes of it, the easier it will be for the host to gracefully accompany you to the kitchen and point you towards the pantry. After all, nobody's attacking them as a person, and if their self esteem is intact, i.e. not depending upon everybody loving their food, they will see that this is just a case of someone preferring their meals prepared in a different manner. The easiest comparison here is that not everybody loves steak, and even amongst those who love it, they don't all eat it done equally.

Over the next few weeks I'd like to talk some more about self esteem and congruent behaviour, and give you some markers what to look out for as well as some tools to work with.

Til next time!

For those of you unfamiliar with the Billy Connolly reference, you can watch the stand-up sequence here. Caution, contains explicit and strong language!