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Natasha Dern Headshot

Women: Who's in Charge of Your Life?

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Over the years, I have spoken to countless women who feel as though they're living a life scripted or prescribed by others. They long to break out of their inner prisons and run into the welcoming arms of freedom, but they lack the confidence and courage to do so. Some are terrified to make the necessary changes, while others are plagued by self-doubt that almost borders on paralysis, and the rest seem to think, speak and act in ways that minimize their power. Despite all this, there is a deep hunger within women now to find ways and means of living a fulfilling life.

I believe a woman must search her own soul, dig for her own treasures, and follow her North Star in order to find her brand of happiness. Self-awareness has become a prerequisite for this day and age. I think without taking the time to explore the regions and territories of our inner life, we rob ourselves of authentic joy and peace. In reality we are not what our environment created, what our parents drilled into us, or what society expects of us. As women, we are living in the most amazing period in human history. We have freedom, choices, and options that give every one of us a chance to find our own field of dreams. If we don't like the way our life is going, we have the power to change it. We have the tools and resources to do so. This is why it is so important to explore our inner saboteurs, for if they are allowed to reign over our lives for too long, we will continue to reap adverse consequences.

You may be wondering what exactly are inner saboteurs? They are mostly comprised of thoughts and feelings that undermine your self-worth, self-confidence and self-image. They are thoughts and feelings absorbed from external sources and are therefore internalized without your awareness. They are the voices or inner dialogue you hear that tell you or keep reminding you that you'll never amount to anything, you'll never find love, you'll never succeed, you're not good enough, you're unattractive, you're stupid, you're weak, you're unlovable, you'll never get married, you're a fake, you're worthless, you're too old, you'll never be happy and so on. I call these voices the inner saboteurs. They influence your decisions and choices in life, love, relationships, career, money and friendships. If you are experiencing any difficulty in any of these areas, suffice it to say that your inner saboteurs are involved. Everyone is influenced by these voices, yet each person experiences them in a unique way. Through my own personal struggles and those of other women, I have found four common sources from which many of our limitations are born.

Let us examine these sources and explore how they have more or less influenced or limited your own personal well-being. These sources may not describe your situation exactly, and your experiences may not be completely negative. Still, many women are influenced to some degree by each of the following:

1) Your past experiences and memories:

The majority of us learned negative beliefs about ourselves from traumatic experiences and learned to define ourselves within these parameters. In other words, the experiences made us feel bad, so we think we must be bad, and we have believed it ever since. These voices or inner dialogue you have with yourself may sound something like, "I'm not good enough. I'm not as good as others. I'm not worthy to be loved, happy or successful. I don't care what happens to me. I'm a victim. Everybody hates me. Bad things happen to me. I'm not lucky. I hate myself. I hate my life, etc." These thoughts and feelings are interpretations of past experiences and do not define who you really are. Even though they are a product of the past, they still wield a great deal of power over your present.

2. Your environment, parents and caretakers:

Parents always try to do the best they can. However, we learn to believe what they believe. Even if they were wonderful people, they may have inadvertently taught us conditional love, reward and punishment, to be judgmental, to aim low, to settle and avoid spreading our wings, to be happy with our lot, to never complain, to give but never receive, and a host of other messages that imbedded themselves within our minds from which we operate in the present. They taught us by their example and their words: "Do what we say and you'll get our love, but disobey us and you won't. Be a good girl. Girls don't get angry. Girls should be seen and not heard, etc." Oftentimes questioning or examining the mindset they planted within us can be painful. But nevertheless, the seeds remain, and it is up to us to weed them out.

3. The people around you:

It is no surprise that the closest people to us have tremendous power over certain areas of our lives; these people include family members, friends, and co-workers, whose opinions might affect us negatively: "Don't become too successful. Don't be too original. Be like us and we'll continue to like you. Don't dream too big or you might get disappointed. Accept the status quo. It's harder for women out there. Women have it tougher in the work force. Hide your attributes if you want to get a man. Hide your power. Hide your intelligence. Hide everything except what the world expects to see." These voices might force us to remain in a rut just to make others happy. Because we don't want to fall out of favor with them, we sabotage any progression, both personally and professionally. In other words, we become people-pleasers.

4. Mass media:

This voice is perhaps the most blatant one of all. We hear it every day through the newspapers, magazines, television and radio: "Buy this product or service and you'll be more beautiful, glamorous, exciting, wealthy, young, vibrant, desirable, hot, sexy and attractive to the opposite sex." Women are bombarded with these messages on a daily basis. These voices influence our self-image, and if we don't measure up, we feel inadequate. Therefore, we end up criticizing ourselves inside and out, which robs us of our confidence and leaves us insecure. We need to learn how to deflect these messages and begin to live from our centre more.

As you can see, there are many influences that shape the inner landscape of your life. It is wise to discover the source of your inner saboteurs and whence they came. In other words, who's in charge of your life? Which of the above sources have you internalized as your reality? By discerning who and what created you inner saboteurs, you help to build your bridge to freedom. Be mindful when they come knocking at the door of your mind, take a deep breath, gather your courage, stand tall, feel confident, feel your power, and shout out with passion, "Nobody's home!"

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