As I held the two white A4 pages covered with bullet points and my partner’s distinctive hand writing, my hands trembled slightly and tears trickled down my face. I recognised there was truth in the list but I was simultaneously surprised that my partner, Greg, saw such goodness in me. He’s never been expressive, leaving me to rely more on his actions to know that he loves me so this was new for both of us.
These heartfelt pages were my birthday present in 2012. In the leadup Greg had been asking for present ideas and one day out of the blue I responded: “Please write me a letter sharing all of the things you love about me”. It was only a few months on from my suicidal crisis and I was still processing the experience and working out what to do next. I figured it might be helpful to have a reminder of what was great about me in the moments when I had lost touch with my goodness.
10 years on those two dog-eared and fold-creased pages still sit in my bedside drawer. I must admit I don’t refer to them that often anymore but there have certainly been many times over the past 10 years when I have bathed in those words and that they have helped me to reconnect with who I truly am.
It seems that none of us are immune to negative self-talk, imposter syndrome, stress, mental health problems, etc, all of which can cause a disconnection between our self-perception and who we truly are. I think that we’d all benefit from putting together a list of “What’s awesome about me”, like an insurance policy for the times that we’re challenged.
If you’re feeling awesome right now, this is the perfect time to create a list of what’s great about you. How many wonderful qualities can you come up with? What are your strengths? How do you show up in the world? What sort of friend are you? What part of your body do you love? What makes you different to other people? How do you live your values? What are you doing when you most feel like you?
If you’re not feeling the self-love right now, can you get others in on the act as I did with Greg?
A few years ago a mentor of mine introduced me to an activity called Reflected Best SelfTM (RBS) which is also excellent for getting clear on what’s great about you.
RBS Instructions: Ask five to ten significant others (friends, family, coworkers, clients, people who know you well and will provide honest opinions) to share written feedback describing you at your best. Ask for specific examples of times when you were at your best. (No negative comments are included.)
When you have received these responses, compile them and search for themes that describe you at your best. The pattern that emerges is your RBS portrait.
Based on the material you receive, write your RBS Portrait. Begin with: “At my best-self I …”
This website, providing a woman’s perceptions/experience with the RBS activity and some examples of what she wrote http://parkerbestself.weebly.com/start-here.html, may be helpful.
Alternatively, you can use the RBS tool developed by the Michigan Ross Centre for Positive Organisations, University of Michigan for a fee.
There is so much goodness in everyone of us and getting in touch with it can be a great strategy for protecting us from mental ill-health. Here’s to your very long list! Let me know how you go.
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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.