Finding Purpose SelfAcceptance and SelfLove Discovering Your Life Theme

Each of us has a life theme, according to Daphne Rose Kingma, psychotherapist and author of Loving Yourself: Four Steps to a Happier You. A life theme is a single psychological issue that is the lesson plan for our lives. For some, life themes dictate personal mission or lifes purpose. And no other factor is as important as our life theme in coloring our self-esteem and helping or hindering our ability to accept and love ourselves. Life themes reflect our deepest wound, and many, including me, find their life purpose through their life theme.

All her life, my mother wanted a daughter. Pregnant at thirty-nine, she knew I was her last chance. You can imagine her disappointment when the doctor announced I was a boy. From birth, I felt I was not okay as I was. To earn my parents love, I strived to be someone else. Now at fifty-one, I know my life purpose is to help others stand in their power by becoming the full expression of all they are.

Inherent in my mission is the belief that we are perfect just as we are. Life themes feed inner critics. My life theme of rejection eggs on my inner critic, who taunts: If people knew who you really were, they would not love you. You do not deserve to be included.

If only you were (smarter, more in shape, or accepting) people would like you. And this negative self-talk shapes my concept of self. According to Kingma, life themes fall into six broad catagories: 1. Neglect 2. Abandonment 3.

Abuse 4. Rejection 5. Emotional Suffocation 6.

Deprivation Let us look at each. See if you can identify yours. Neglect Was television your babysitter? Was your home always dirty and messy? Was your idea of a hone-cooked meal a TV dinner that you had to microwave yourself? Were you closer to your best friends parents than your own? If you were neglected, you may: Feel unworthy of the good things that life has to offer. Feel guilty every time you buy new clothes, have a manicure, or take a vacation. Beat yourself up for not giving yourself more care and attention. Abandonment Did one of your parents die? Were one or both parents workaholics and never at home? Did your dad or mother disappear after a divorce? Were you emotionally abandoned? If abandonment is your issue, then you may: Not stick up for yourself.

Find yourself in situations where you feel abandoned. Tend to be in relationships where others are not particularly loyal. Abuse Were you sexually, physically, emotionally, or verbally abused? Were you called too sensitive? Was one or both of your parents narcissistic? Were they too self-absorbed to give you the attention you needed? If abuse is a life theme, then you may: Be super critical of yourself. Feel you do not deserve love.

Allow others to treat you poorly. Be unkind to your body by overeating, forming addictions, or staying in abusive relationships. Rejection Did your parents wish you were never born? Did they wish you had been a boy instead of a girl, or vice versa? Did you feel secondary to another sibling in your family? Were you ignored? Treated as if you did not exist? If you were rejected, you may: Be self-rejecting. Unconsciously seek out experiences where you are not chosen or valued.

Blame yourself for not being included. Emotional Suffocation Did you have an overprotective or overly involved parent? Did one of your parents treat you like a spouse? Were your parents emotionally invasive? If you suffered from emotional suffocation, then you may: Feel overwhelmed by a persons simple desire for contact or intimacy. Be commitment phobic. Blame yourself when love eludes you.

Deprivation Did you grow up in poverty? Did everyone around you seem to have more than you? Were you deprived of physical and emotional contact with your parents or siblings? Was your mother too busy, drunk, or exhausted to give you attention? Was your father too absorbed in his work or the evening paper to talk to you? If your life theme is deprivation, you may: Tend to do without. Have a hard time receiving because you believe you do not deserve it. Feel you should treat yourself better while blaming yourself for doing just that.

If you are like me you identify with several of these themes. My dad was a workaholic (abandonment) and my mother treated me as a spouse (emotional suffocation). While these two themes play out in my life, rejection takes the lead role.

In my experience working with clients, one central theme is almost always more prevalent. Looking over your history, can you determine what caused your life theme to become your central issue? Many clients feel disloyal when they blame their parents. They did the best they could, many say. While your parents most likely did their best, it was still not enough.

None of us has ever been loved perfectly. It is a fact of life. Loving yourself is the greatest work you will do in this life. In a sense it is your only work, Kingma wisely writes. Life themes negatively impact our image of ourselves when we are not conscious of them. Learning to work with our life themes builds self-acceptance, self-esteem, and self-love.

I found these four questions particularly helpful in exploring my life theme. I hope you will find them useful, too. One: How has my life theme defined me? Put another way, what roles am I playing because of my life theme? I have taken on the roles of rebel, outsider, and artist because of my life theme of rejection.

Two: How does my life theme negatively impact my life? I wrote: I feel superior to others (often masking my low self-esteem). I become judgmental. I look for what separates me from others instead of what we share in common. Three: What benefit(s) do I derive by holding on to this central theme? This question delivered a big aha to me. I realized that if I do not belong, then I am special. Four: What are two ways that I could benefit by letting go of my central theme? 1.

I could build a stronger, closer network of friends. 2. I could go to a party, enjoy myself, and not be exhausted at the end of the evening. Five: How could my life theme point me to my purpose or mission? For me, it was easy.

For others, it is much harder. Still, all of us can find clues by examining our life theme. One friend, a South Carolina couples therapist, discovered that her theme of abandonment lead her to adopt the mission of helping couples build safe, secure, stable, and sane relationships.

Life themes become limiting beliefs when not examined, and limiting beliefs are the glass ceilings that prevent us from reaching for the stars. When we identify our life themes we come closer to finding our mission or purpose in life. By working with our life themes, we become more self-accepting and self-affirming. We lead happier and more meaningful lives.

Randy Siegel works with organizations to take employees and give them the leadership and communications skills they need to be successful as they rise through the organization. Subscribe to his complimentary monthly e-Newsletter "Stand in Your Power!" at

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