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HELP! I've Lost All my Confidence!



Q. I'm 22 years old and I have absolutely no confidence. I've never had a boyfriend or ever kissed a boy. When guys hit on me I think they feel bad for me or are just being nice. My family has always made remarks since I was young about me being worthless and my little sister, who has a revolving door for boys, is embarrassed for me. She and the rest of my family make fun of me and it hurts. I just feel like I'm too ugly and too fat and that nobody would ever want me. What can I do to gain confidence? Is there any hope for me?

A. It must be very unpleasant for you if all you are getting is negativity coming at you, especially from those closest to you who should value you. Not a good place to be, I'm sure. The greatest cause of low confidence is our home, the way we are brought up and the support we have. It does not seem as though you have too much support at the moment, but you have lots of time to turn it around, so don't worry.

The first thing to do is to begin to appreciate who you are and to try to love yourself. I know it is diffiult to do but no one can love what you reject, so stop thinking that you are fat and ugly. If you believe that about yourself, how can anyone else think otherwise? You really have to like yourself if you want guys to like you too. That self-love will make you seem more attractive instead of being just gloomy and negative. As hard as it is, just keep telling yourself EVERY DAY how lovely and slim you are, how unique and special (because you are, there's no one else like you in history!) and say it as often as you can in your head. You really have to get on top of the negative thoughts which are your constant company and replace them with more positive, uplifting ones, because thoughts are the keys to the quality of your life. Negative thoughts give poor self-esteem because people treat you exactly how you treat yourself which then makes you feel even worse.

Next, try to build up other friendships outside your home which are more supportive and positive. You cannot help the family you are born into, but you are an adult now so you can take some steps to build up other social friendships which will make you feel much better and reduce the time you have to spend hearing negative comments. If you don't feel ready for that yet, there are online social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace that can help you make new friends who like you and build your esteem.

Most important, try and accept that you ARE worthy. If you don't accept that fact, you will always put off people from making connections with you. Take an interest in others and take the focus off yourself. You will be even more interesting as a person because you will feel more included in social things. Often when we are unhappy we just sink inside of us and notice the negative things while ignoring positive ones, which only makes us boring to be with and also appear self-centred.

Confidence comes from inside us, nowhere else, but it is tied up with our feeling of belonging, acceptance, achievement and self-esteem. Once you sort out these aspects, especially the self-esteem and feeling of achievement, your confidence will grow, but it does take a while without positive help. You have to make a superhuman effort to be positive in that kind of environment, to focus upon good things and ignore the negatives around you.

Begin to appreciate that guys do like you because you are attractive and they will lose interest if you never return their attention. Most of all, begin to give thanks and gratitude for your life, to welcome every new day instead of taking it and your blessings for granted and focusing on what is wrong. You will gradually begin to feel much better about you, your true value and what you want for your life.

What is shyness and why are we shy?



Shyness is an overwhelming feeling of unworthiness, a major obstacle to greater enjoyment of life. It is a sense of unease with the self, not being happy in one's skin, and a fear of interacting with others in various social situations. Shy people do not trust themselves to know the 'right' things to say, or the 'right' way to act, though there is no one right way of living life! They are loathe to meet others, especially in a group, to talk with them face to face, or to share anything with them directly because they are likely to feel inadequate. They do not trust others to interact as they expect and so FEAR tends to dictate their reactions.

A shy person tends to take no interest in others, does not usually invite sharing or confidences, does not like to initiate contacts and tends to focus on perceived weaknesses rather than strengths. That attitude, being rather fearful and detached, would not endear them to others, which then isolates them even further. Shy people are also self-focused and are constantly comparing themselves with others and coming out wanting. This means they lack the booster they need to feel good about themselves because they seldom get any social reinforcement from others.

Shyness encourages a belief of having little to offer the world and so shy people leave it up to others to make the first move. But that tends to be counter-productive as they are often deprived of the very opportunities they need to demonstrate their capabilities in using their initiative. Worst still, because they are so introspective and disinterested in others, they often appear to be rather selfish, boring people when they are often very interesting in their own right, once they take the opportunity and have the confidence to shine.

Where does shyness come from?
Shyness is caused by low self image, low confidence and self belief, and negative feelings about self-worth. It is based on a desire to be perfect (or to avoid being hurt), a lack of trust, and the mistaken belief that everyone else is perhaps more perfect, which makes the shy person feel unworthy to share their company. The main idea that everyone out there is better than we are, perhaps better looking, more clever or such social experts constantly dogs the shy person. Hence to be really shy robs the individual of essential interaction with others and new experiences, while allowing them to have a distorted view of their world and their true value. In a mild form, shyness can be dealt with by acquiring greater confidence, but the extremes of shyness become social anxiety, a definite phobia against certain things/people or even panic attacks at the thought of interacting.

It would have orginated from how one is treated in childhood: whether one was affirmed and reinforced as a valued person, or was mainly criticised and made to feel inadequate in whatever one did. It is also related to whether one was given enough responsibility and trust, or overly protected from life. It is then difficult to have a strong sense of self or to develop confidence in one's abilities if even one's parent's didn't think highly of one either. Unfortunately, shyness is self-reinforcing in a vicious circle.

In general, shyness prevents full expression in one's person: in thought, behaviour and feelings, so that the shy person tends to live inside him/herself, desiring freedom in social interactions, but being the eternal observer to other people's actions. Controlled by fear, there is always the overriding feeling of being on the periphery of life, being unwanted, unable to trust and being definitely unappreciated and undervalued.

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How do I Love Myself When I Feel Like Crap?



Many people see my constant, happy smile and make instant assumptions about me and my past. However, my childhood was a pretty traumatic one. In the bad old days, as I call them, I would pass a mirror, momentarily liked what I saw but then suddenly, and inexplicably, would start telling myself that I was 'crap', that I 'hated' myself and I was 'pathetic'.

I had buried my trauma deep inside me, refusing to face them and, slowly, they took their toll in continuous self-loathing and low self-esteem. Gradually, and painfully, I learned that I had to sort out my past, face it and move on, and then begin the slow process of self-love. The wonderful result is clear to see now.

At the root of our main problems is likely to be a chronic lack of self-love. It is much easier for us not to love ourselves because the natural instinct to blame always seeks scapegoats, especially internally. When we do not wish to blame someone else for the hurt, pain or unappreciation we feel, we go inwards with the anger and beat ourselves up instead.

For example, victims of racism are likely to loathe themselves or their children, likely to tell their children how 'ugly' or 'horrible' they are, externalising the self-hate they feel. The same with victims of domestic abuse. They usually blame themselves for the violence, being willing to believe that they must have done something to deserve it and they are not worthy of anything else. This lack of self love perpetuates the negative situations, reinforcing the very behaviour which is hurting them.

Respect starts with the self
Self-love is the key to personal value, feelings of worth, inclusion significance and ultimately respect. We cannot earn the respect of others if we have no respect for ourselves. We cannot expect others to love what we reject if we have no love for ourselves and we cannot expect value from others if we give ourselves no value. What happens in our life happens in circular motion: whatever we feel we then give out to our world which comes back to us ten-fold through the natural Law of Attraction. So if we feel awful and negative, we give that out, the energy we send out attracts similar negative energy which then returns to haunt us even more in a dismal cycle. That is why certain people constantly have negative experiences. Nothing will change until they change their thought processes. So you need to be careful what you focus on because that is all you will get in life!

However, how do you begin to love yourself when others might not have affirmed or loved you? A very good question, and not so glib to answer because it is difficult to do. It means you have to try to overturn years of negativity and being undervalued by parents, lovers or friends. However, it starts with establishing 5 things:

The value you place on yourself;

Gratitude for your life and blessings;
What you wish to do with that life;

Self-appreciation and living in the present.


Who is your Personal Manager?

First, begin by looking at yourself from the outside. Ask yourself, if you were your own manager would you employ you? Would you employ someone who puts you down, tells you how terrible you are, beats you up for every mistake, loathes you and does nothing to motivate you? One who forces you to put up with violence or putdowns, or to be treated like a doormat? Of course not. Yet you constantly do that to yourself! Time to sack that personal manager, that little voice of negativity within you, and get a new motivational one!

Second, begin to give thanks for your LIFE and its blessings. Your time on earth is very precious because many people have no life. Theirs have been taken while you are still enjoying yours. Appreciate that simple fact and be grateful. It is a fact of life that the more we give thanks is the more we have to be thankful for (that Law of Attraction again). Our gratitude energy goes out and attract other similar energy and brings us back much more in return. You don't ever have to do something wonderful to be a winner. Just by opening your eyes each morning and finding yourself above ground makes you the biggest winner! Give thanks for that. Never take it for granted because one day you simply will not be there.

To begin the process of self-love, you have to ask ourself these questions:

When did I last give deliberate thanks for...
- waking up and seeing another day?

- the people in my life?

- the things I have been blessed with?

- the talents I have?

- the faculties that still work?

- my beauty, life and experiences?

When did I affirm and reinforce someone?

Do I just take everything and people around me for granted?

Go through that list again and award yourself up to 5 points for each, if you did it yesterday or today. Anything under 20 is bad! My score was 35. Up to 12 years ago it would have been no more than 10 points.

Establish your life purpose
Third, what do you wish to do with that life? We are not talking about your job here. We are talking about your PURPOSE. What makes you want to jump out of bed in the mornings, makes you want to fly, thrills you with a warm glow when you think of it? That's your purpose. If you are feeling generally unhappy, you have not identified your life purpose yet, otherwise you would be almost delirious with excitement, as I am every day of my life. My work is just magic. I can actually see the difference it makes to others and that is so empowering - both to me and the receivers. You are probably just doing your job for the sake of the money, trapped by a mortgage or being a slave to material things. That will not make you feel good in the long term. It will not give you much value. When we are living to purpose the world is our oyster and everything we want gradually comes into being. We don't even have to try too hard, we just do our best and the Universe delivers.

Fourth, I have learnt that when we keep ourself in the past it is because we don't like our present too much. We probably feel isolated, excluded, unloved and unappreciated, so we secretly blame ourself, we use our depression to maintain attention, but of a sort which, sadly, alienates us from others and have counter-productive effects. In short, our current unhappiness helps us to hark back to the past to remind ourself of how terrible we are while making our situation worse. We keep the negatives stuck in our head, perhaps for sympathy, instead of facing them, acknowledging them, forgiving OURSELF and others and moving on. I could not forgive until I found love .. my own self-love. To find true love from someone else, you have to love yourself first. No one can love you for you.

People who live in the past tend to take their present for granted, while many others have not been so privileged to have one. We have no present or future if we live in the past. We are so busy looking back there, we have no time to make a future or to appreciate what we have. Hence we come across as selfish and ungrateful.

Someone once said, "If you want to know what your future will be like, look at your habits now". Whatever habits you have today will dictate your tomorrow. If you have negative habits that keep you stuck in the past, you will only keep getting what you've always got. Your future will be no different from today. Your habits, the way you do things now, will guarantee that.

So, in a nutshell, you have to STOP:

a. beating yourself up over past actions.

b. aiming for perfection

c. comparing yourself to others, otherwise you will always feel inadequate.

d. seeking the approval of others when the only standard should be your own.

On top of all that you have to:
e. Look outwards to others in love and appreciation than just focusing on yourself.
f. Appreciate your limitations.
g. Praise yourself DAILY for being a wonderful and unique human being.

(Just think...you're the only one, ever, throughout history!)

If you put these items together with the other 7 questions above and use them as a weekly regime, the difference would be dramatic.

I have found all these items to be most helpful in developing self-love. But, most of all, accepting myself as I am and giving thanks for every new day of my life, instead of taking it for granted, has been the biggest factor in nurturing my self-love and moving me from feeling like 'crap' to feeling fabulous and fantastic.

Please help! I'm fed up with people putting me down



Q. I met a 22 year old guy online and we went on a few dates, but I didnt feel it was working so told him (I honestly never insulted him once). He said that he lowered his standards for me and that the reason he wanted to be my boyfriend was cause he was desperate. I'm the shy and introverted type. I know I dont look good. I got rated mainly 4's out of 10 for some facial attractiveness activity at college. I got the lowest and that wrecked my confidence. He's the only guy ive dated and hes made me feel as though im too ugly to break up with a guy. I want to be more outgoing but the more I try the more people put me down.

A. This is so sad because all you are doing is allowing ONE person in the whole world, whom you don't even like, to affect how you feel, when there are many more waiting to like you. Just because that guy is low in confidence, and takes it out on you because you wanted to finish the friendship, doesn't mean you let his words affect you and become like him. Once you feel you don't like someone, you really should not talk to them anymore or hang around with them, because some guys can't take any kind of rejection and will then turn on you in any negative way they can to compensate for the emotional disappointment.

Everyone in this world is good looking to some degree because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There is no rule book that says you have to look a certain way to be regarded as beautiful. Appreciate yourself as you are. If you don't love yourself, how can anyone else love what you reject? 

There is nothing wrong with you. You might have got '4' in a past rating for your looks but they were probably rating your personality (especially if you were quiet and don't make friends easily) than your actual looks. it sounds as though you need to boost your confidence and self esteem, by accepting yourself fully and appreciating who you are, and not depend on others to rate you, or tell you how you look, because you will never please everyone. 

Most important, people can only reflect the value YOU give to yourself, they cannot create that value. So if you feel terrible they will only reflect that back to you, too, because you won't appear very attractive. Your attitude and behaviour will ensure that. It's a positive personality that makes us appeal to others, not just looks, per se. So try to build your confidence and esteem, smile more and be more interested in others, and more people will want your company.

Time to stop noticing what that loser guy is saying, to leave his negative orbit, and find someone who will appreciate and uplift you rather than put you down.

How can I deal with confrontations better?



Dealing with confrontations isn't easy, especially when we lack the confidence and interaction skills to do so. You get nervous etc., because you lack confidence. You believe you are confident but you are not, because you only seem confident when things are going well and to your liking. Yet, life is about interacting with others in the most comfortable way and not everyone is going to act according to expectations.

Confidence carries no fear, except those for our survival. If your background did not prepare you for dealing with confrontations then, not surprisingly, you would try to avoid them. Another reason why you would feel terrible and fearful is because you perhaps seek the approval of others, having low self esteem, and so you fear the consequences of getting into a confrontation and losing that approval. Finally, you feel like that because you lack the interaction skills to deal with any form of conflict.

Life is about balance. It is a combination of pain and pleasure, good and bad, up and down. We cannot have one aspect without the other because that balance is integral to life. So you will never have a life where you agree with everything that's happening, where your interactions with others are fantastic all the time, or where everything happens exactly as you wish it. That would be abnormal. The only answer for your predicament is to LEARN how to cope with difficult situations by both boosting your confidence and becoming more assertive in dealing with others.

A very useful tip you can have is this: Always remember that you have the RIGHT to say how you feel and the other person has the right to accept what you say or reject it, and vice versa. If you do not address the things you don't like, they will only get worse, as people take advantage of you, so never ignore them. Look at confrontation as a necessary part of life which you have to learn to cope with instead of always feeling badly about, or taking flight. Simply learn some coping skills and in the process you will know when to defend your corner, when to assert your own perspective, when to agree to disagree and when to simply walk away without any fear whatever.

How Do I Develop Self Love? 3 Essential Starters



Q. How do I develop self-love? Sometimes I really hate myself and can't see any way to change my feelings.

A. A very good question. Not so glib to answer because it is difficult to do. It means you have to try to overturn years of negativity and being undervalued by parents or lovers. However, it starts with 3 things:

* Gratitude for all your blessings in life
* Self-appreciation and living in the present, and
* Self-forgiveness.

A lack of self-love comes from a feeling of being unappreciated and unwanted, usually from our childhood which is then reinforced in adulthood. It also tends to keep us in the past reliving those unloved moments. I have learnt that when we keep ourself in the past it is because we don't like our present too much. We probably feel isolated, excluded, unloved and unappreciated, so we secretly blame ourself and live unhappy lives. We use our depression to maintain attention, but of a sort which, sadly, alienates us from others and have counter-productive effects. In short, our current unhappiness helps us to hark back to the past to remind ourself of how terrible we are.

We tend to keep the negatives stuck in our head, perhaps for sympathy, instead of facing them, acknowledging them, forgiving OURSELF and others and moving on. I could not forgive until I found love: self-love. To find true love from someone else, you have to love yourself first. No one can love you for you.

To begin the process of self-love, we have to ask ourself these questions:

When did I last give deliberate thanks for waking up and seeing another day?

When did I give thanks for the people in my life?

For the things I have been blessed with?

For the talents I have? For the faculties that still work?

For my beauty, life and experiences?

Do I just take everything and people around me for granted?

When did I affirm and reinforce someone?

I cannot answer those questions for you, Rose, only you can. But people who live in the past tend to take their present for granted and are often mean with appreciation for their blessings, while many others have not been so privileged to even have a life. We have no present or future if we live in the past because we are so busy looking back there, we have no time to make a future or to appreciate what we really have.

The Power of Personal Habits
Someone once said, "If you want to know what your future will be like, look at your habits now".

Whatever habits you have today will dictate your tomorrow. So, if you have negative habits that keep you stuck in the past, you will only keep getting what you've always got. Your future will be no different from today. Your habits, the way you do things now, will guarantee that.

So, we have to stop beating ourself up over past actions, stop aiming for perfection and stop comparing ourself to others, otherwise we will always feel inadequate. We also have to appreciate our limitations, praise ourself DAILY for being a wonderful and unique human being. Stop seeking the approval of others when the only standard should be your own, and look outwards to others in love and appreciation than just focusing on yourself.

I have found all these to be most helpful in developing self love but, most of all, accepting myself as I am and giving thanks for every new day of my life, instead of taking it for granted, have been the biggest factors in nurturing my self love and moving from feeling awful to feeling fantastic. Do remember that no one can love what you reject, Rose, and if you really want to be appreciated, regardless of the opinion of others, you have to begin by loving yourself and being satisfied with who you are.

Does self esteem have to be earned
before one can have it?



Q. According to an article I read: "Self-esteem is not a gift; it can only be earned. Affirmations, self-talk and encouragement are all useful in your quest for self-esteem, but you only develop self-esteem the old-fashioned way, “You earn it!”

As you achieve, your self-esteem grows and as your self-esteem grows you feel better prepared to face greater challenges and create greater successes." Is that right?

A. Interesting conclusion, but I beg to differ. That's a superficial way of looking at the most important aspect of our lives. Self-esteem has little to do with success, per se. It cannot be 'earned'. Self esteem gradually emerges from one's childhood experiences: how one was valued or ignored, praised or criticised, affirmed or negated.  A child who is never reinforced by those who are significant to him/her grows up living in doubt, with anxieties around who they are and with issues of belonging, potential and self worth. So how children are treated in the main, whether affirmed or ignored, has a long term effect on their esteem.

We get poor self esteem when we are not treated with any value or respect, which makes us loathe ourselves, and high esteem when we are clearly valued and treated in a significant way. Above all, high self-esteem is built through love and appreciation of the self. That's the only way to negate the effects of poor childhood experiences. Without self love - accepting who we are, warts and all, without seeking the approval of others - we tend to feel inadequate, to feel pessimistic about life, to feel in terms of constant loss and negativity, instead of optimism and confidence. It really is about value. 

One can be very successful without high self-esteem (attributing their success to luck, to fluke, chance, or the support of others) or be unsuccessful but still very confident and high in esteem (perhaps believing that they have not done their best, or not really caring about success itself). Such people tend to act because they want to, without caring about the result in terms of social success (example artists and independent professionals).

Does self-esteem produce success, or does success improve self-esteem? 

Self-esteem does not automatically produce success, but it does predispose the person to be more of an achiever than someone with low self esteem. It all depends on the individual and his/her aspirations. Again, success often improves self-esteem, but the person has to be optimistic enough to accept that their own efforts led to their success and have the desire to repeat the performance. Most important, whatever they do has to satisfy their basic needs.

The one known factor when it comes to people and their emotions, is that the better one feels about one's self (high esteem) is the more confident one tends to feel about one's world and abilities, and the more one will be inclined to put that confidence into action to test its possibilities and its limits.  Successful people are always likely to be more successful, but it really depends on the individual's aims and aspirations, the support they get (which you rightly mentioned) and the belief in themselves. Anything else about that correlation would be pure conjecture.

How do you cope with routine and boredom in your life?



Q. Does a thought comes in your mind that life has become monotonous and routine? That you keep on doing everyday tasks, in both work and home, mechanically, subconsciously or automatically? My question to you is - What do you do to get rid of drudgery which creeps in everyday?

A. I have to say that I haven't time to be bored because I write for a living so I am always searching for new topics. However, to stop my life getting into a boring routine of the same things, especially as I work for myself, I divide my day up into four parts. First part is for work, second is for going walking, shopping or all the other jobs I might have outside, third is back to work and the last part is relaxing with some music, TV, a performance or with a boyfriend, when I have one. I am always creating new things too and trying out new ideas so my life tends to be very enjoyable without too many moments to feel bored or restless.

People who find their jobs or life boring are really unhappy within themselves and deliberately try to ignore the causes of that unhappiness. Instead, they expect their work or home to make them feel better, but that doesn't happen if they are basically down and demoralised, frustrated or resentful. We are likely to feel bored when we are not working to purpose, but just have a job for the sake of a job or just earning the money. Then we get no fulfilment from what we do, which keeps us feeling unhappy, bored and demotivated most of the time.

I adore getting up each day to do my work. I get such tremendous joy it is an amazing feeling, especially when there is feedback about the effect on other people. if you don't have that feeling regarding your work, then you are probably in the wrong job. When we are really happy with what we do, we have little time to be bored. We would be too busy and occupied. Perhaps you need to examine closely what you really want to do with your life. What would make you sing with joy every day? What work would bring out the best in you and aim for that. It could change your feelings and perspectives totally.

In answer to your question, I do not have any drudgery in my day because I regard every day as precious, I never take it for granted as it could be my last; I love what I do and I try to make each day a masterpiece. That leaves little room for anything else. :o)

How do I deal with pushy writers on the Net?



Q. In recent discussions on our forum, some of the members wrote in repulsive, derogatory, insulting, intimidating and highly objectionable language. I felt very bad after going through their responses. Why do they do it, Elaine?

A. I think it is very sad when people feel the need to use derogatory or offensive language when communicating with others. There is no reason whatever to be derogatory in a discussion, even if we do not like what the other person is saying. But in the kind of world we are living today, where the essential courtesies seem to be missing behind a barrier of anonymity, this makes it easier to be insulting using the detached world of the Internet. Personally, I have found three types of people who use such negative communication to get their points across.

First, there are the simple bullies who have found a platform for their style, especially under the anonymity of the Internet where they can't be personally identified. They love to behave that way because it gives them a feeling of power over the others at whom their vitriol is aimed. They enjoy having the upper hand and love to be goaded so that they can continue to do more of the same. Bullies delight in imposing their ideas and thoughts on to others. They tend to be verbally abusive, with lots of name calling, and enjoy being confrontational and controversial. Bullies are very low in self-esteem and so behaving in that derogatory manner is meat and drink to them to boost their ego and to make them feel important. Otherwise they would feel crappy, especially if everyone ignored them.

Second, are the ones I call the shouters - those who are not used to getting the attention they deserve in gentle, courteous ways, so they believe that if they act differently they will attract far more attention and be able to 'shout down' everyone else by being offensive and controversial. Shouters enjoy showing how much they know and how little everyone else does, and in a manner designed to make their audience, or specific targets, feel inferior or inadequate. They tend to turn everything into an argument because they are never wrong in their own eyes. That is how they get their kicks and the only way they can show their superior 'knowledge'. Hence they are likely to argue ad nauseam, just for the sake of it to get the better of you. These types only see their own warped logic and are only interested in your point of view to pick holes in it.

More Bravado Than Brain!
Third are the shysters (my word), those who feel very inadequate in using language in a commanding and competent way, so they resort to predictable offensive words to feel better: the sum total of their vocabulary which tends to be very weak and undeveloped. More bravado than brain, obviously, but it still has the main effect of masking their inadequacies and lack of knowledge, and presenting them as what they are not, primarily to impress. Each of these simplified types have two things in common: no respect for themselves, and so are unable to give any respect to others, and a basic desire for attention. That is why even when it would be simpler for them to ignore a topic they are not really interested in, they would rather join in for the attention. The rules are only their rules and they impose them as they go along. For someone not used to such aggressiveness, it can be quite a shock, and many people find it really difficult to deal with. But I have three steps to dealing with them.

The first is to calmly ask if they need to boost their self-esteem so badly at my expense in order to feel superior? Then they should enjoy it, but be quiet about it. Second, I also emphasise that I do have standards for my own space, and do not usually converse with people who cannot pay me the courtesy of not being offensive. The third is to deliberately praise their positive contributions and ignore the more negative aspects. If those first steps still don't work, I just switch off and entirely ignore them, cutting off their oxygen of attention for the future.

Arguing with them endlessly is seldom effective because that is exactly what they want. It merely plays by their rules and give them the opportunity to continue to do what they like best - to be offensive, superior and dictatorial.

Is my mother my worst enemy?



Q. When I started my internet business, my mother told me:"Nonsense, you can't earn like this. That's not a job". She's always so damn negative about everything I start or dream about. Yesterday she really hurt me saying how she loved her first husband and how happy she was with him. He's still alive, but my father isn't, and now she wants me to understand she married my father because he was a "good man", not because she loved him.

I think I'm doing too much to please her, but I get nothing in return. She had a son who died in a car accident and till this day she keeps talking about what a wonderful boy he was, that he could be an actor, that he was talented, exceptional. I never was her "little princess". She never told me I'm pretty, lovely like most mothers do. I believe it's HER who makes me feel so unsure of myself.

A. How sad it must be for you but your mother is showing the classic case of hiding her real pain and taking it all out on you. Her son isn't alive to hear it and your father isn't alive to hear it either. You are the only link to those two people and, instead of cherishing you and loving you because you ARE alive and the only person she has left, she treats you badly instead to cope with her suppressed anger. She doesn't really mean it and would be devastated if anything happened to you. However, she is masking her grief and when that frustration becomes unbearable, you are in the firing line.

Additionally, she does not believe in you because she resents your presence. How dare you have the opportunity to do things with your life when your brother and your father no longer have it? That is the kind of thing she probably thinks without meaning to do so. It then comes out in her behaviour. It is not an uplifting situation to be in and it would be the MAIN cause of your lack of confidence, to be constantly treated as second best. Don't judge her too harshly but try to spend less time around her. Let her begin to miss you more, to wonder what life would be like without you.

Why not write her a sympathetic letter, or talk to her face to face, if you have the courage. Tell her something like this, in your own words: "I know you are really hurting from the loss of my father and brother, but I love you too and am glad we have each other. However, you don't seem to appreciate my company and are constantly negative about my life. That does not do anything for my self esteem or my aspirations. Moreover, if you feel the need to treat me that way, it is not only sad, especially as I love and appreciate you, but I would need to spend less time in your company to prevent me becoming as negative as you are. That would be really tragic as I do appreciate you very much."

Tell her your honest feelings and then see what she does. If she keeps on in the same manner, try and avoid her as much as possible. When you are around her, only reinforce pleasant or positive actions. Whenever she says anything negative, don't respond or leave her company immediately. When she is positive and endearing, return the compliment or do things to affirm her. In this way she will gradually get the message that she will need to be more sensitive and loving if she is going to share your company and your love.

Resentment with loss
Your mother is not unique in her behaviour. There are many parents who lose a child then resent the other children for being alive and subconsciously treat them badly, but many gradually get over their grief and appreciate those kids even more. Your mother seem to be stuck in her grief and is looking for a scapegoat, someone to hurt and to be responsible for her pain. Sadly, you are the only one she can inadvertently blame because you are still alive. And she would have done the same thing to your brother had you been the unfortunate one to die first. Don't feed her negativity by accepting what is plainly unacceptable, neither should you allow yourself to be eaten up by jealousy about your brother. He's dead and you've got a life in front of you. Be thankful for that, not be jealous.

Talking about her son is your mother's way of dealing with her loss. He's never coming back so all she has is his memory and thoughts of how successful he could have been. Don't begrudge her that. Share it with her, encourage her to talk about him while gently reminding her that you need such support too. It doesn't matter that your were not expressly told you were a 'little princess'. You will begin to be truly valued when you learn to value yourself, lessen the jealousy and not allow yourself to be treated badly every day of your life.

So stop trying to please your mother, to make up for the son she lost, and start being you. Otherwise you will just keep getting more of the same. Start loving you, appreciating you and being kind to you. It will take the negative focus off your mother and place it positively where it belongs: on who you are, your value in life and where you're heading. You will feel quite different about her then and far less threatened by her actions.