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Using Metaphors To Unlock Your Potential

Using Metaphors To Unlock Your Potential

Mark Twain’s metaphor for forgiveness shows the power of the metaphor.

    Metaphors can help get us unstuck from deeply ingrained patterns and habits of thinking. We use metaphors all the time and often do not even realize them as they have become so much of a part of our language. Case in point, they can “open doors” and provide “the keys” to insight!

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    So next time you think you are “at the end of your rope” — think metaphors!

    Since creative people think in abstract terms, unleashing the power of the metaphor can truly be powerful and attitude altering. Metaphors can open up “mountains” of possibilities! Besides, thinking in metaphors can be fun also! Commonly understood terms from everyday life take on new meanings that can “stretch” your mind, like a rubber band!  

    For example, when I go by the dairy case at my local grocery store, I don’t look at Swiss Cheese like all the other cheeses. Why? My self-help book is based on the metaphor of Swiss Cheese representing life with all its “holes.” After all, life is not smooth and predictable like Cream Cheese or American! Life has holes, and its how we get through them that counts!  Would you really want your life to be bland and predictable?  What fun would it be to go to a baseball game and already know how it will end up?

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    One of the chapters in the book, “Fondue Can Never Turn Back Into A Block of Cheese” uses the metaphor of fondue to help others get past their past. What’s done is done, and people who get  stuck in their past never can get past it and move in in their lives.  We learned this lesson early on in life with the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme. No matter how hard they tried, all the kings horses and all the kings men could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again.  The analogy helps plant the seed even in children that we need to “use the past as a guidepost rather than a hitching post.”

    One part of Dale Carnegie’s enormous influence was his use of metaphors, such as his simply put  “you can’t saw sawdust.”

    The image of the butterfly is a common metaphor which represents transformation and change. It also is the subject of my very favorite proverb, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly…”  I would imagine that countless people going through difficult transitions have found much solace in this proverb.

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    The image of the sunflower is another commonly used metaphor, as it represents how you can stand upright and beautiful with strength and confidence if you positively orient yourself towards the light represented by the sun.

    Even more mundane analogies can be quite meaningful as we learn life lessons, such as the image of a flat tire.  It has been suggested in various quote postings that a bad attitude is like a flat tire. To move forward you need to change it! 

    Speaking of changing your attitude, if you don’t like the way your life is going, why don’t you “change the channel?”  

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    By the way – are you the type of person that focuses on the “hole” – what’s missing – or the “whole?”  That will determine if you are an optimist or a pessimist!

    Have you ever considered how life is like a book? The story unfolds as you turn the page, and we can write our own “happy ending.” As we read on, things start to come together at the end, just like in our lives we can connect the dots of our life with the benefit of hindsight.

    So the next time you feel like your life is falling apart, why not make it into a beautiful mosaic using the power of metaphors?

    What is your favorite metaphor?  I would love to see yours in the comments below.

    (Photo credit: Safelock via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    Judy Belmont

    Mental health author, motivational speaker and psychotherapist

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    Last Updated on December 17, 2018

    Why You Think You’re Not Good Enough and How To Believe in Yourself

    Why You Think You’re Not Good Enough and How To Believe in Yourself

    Have you ever wanted to say something at work, but a little voice of doubt crept in and said, “what if you are wrong”?

    Maybe you wanted to apply for that promotion or ask that special someone on a date, but something kept you from taking action. When you think you’re not good enough, you tend to fear the outcome and lack faith in your abilities. That is why it is vital you discover how to believe in yourself so you can accomplish your goals and create your dream life.

    Whatever your situation, the fears and self-doubt your false beliefs create will always stop you in your tracks. Identifying the beliefs that cause you to sabotage your life is the first step to removing them.

    Self-doubt causes inaction, and inaction leads to regret. When you are not following your passion and living your dream life, you are left with a lot of questions:

    • What if I took a chance on myself?
    • Could I have had a better life if I took more risks?
    • Am I be satisfied with the legacy I am leaving behind?
    • What could I have accomplished if I did not settle for less?

    So why would you think you’re not good enough?

    1. Parenting

    The perception you have of yourself is based on your past experiences. There are studies that show children mimic everything from their parents ability to regulate emotions, to their parents belief about money.[1]

    I have had clients who did not believe they were good enough because they did not receive any positive reinforcement as a child. When they were young, their parents were extremely overprotective.

    Think of your childhood challenges like dragons you had to slay. Each obstacle you overcame was another dragon you successfully removed from your life. As you slay more dragons, your self-esteem and confidence increase. When someone has overprotective parents, their parents end up slaying the dragons.

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    As a result, the child builds more confidence in their parent’s abilities, while still doubting their own.

    If you are never encouraged to slay your own dragons, you start to doubt whether you can. It is only natural for a child to conclude their parents are always helping them because they think they need it. This child ages into an adult who still believes they are not good enough. They seek the help and confirmation of others, and they rarely stand-up to opposition.

    Solution: Slay Your Dragons!

    If you want to believe in yourself, you are going to have to take steps to rebuild your trust in yourself. Start by keeping your word to others and arriving on-time. By showing yourself that others can (and do) trust you, you are going to feel more comfortable trusting yourself.

    As you move onto larger and more challenging tasks, you have built a foundation of trust in your ability to keep your word. Next, you are going to want to reclaim your sword from others. At first, you may want to confide in whoever it is currently slaying your dragons.

    Understand if it is your parent or someone who loves you, they want the best for you and mean well. You are simply going to tell them that you want to do the work, and will ask them for their thoughts in the planning phase. Feel free to check in with them and give them updates on your progress, while making sure they understand you are wanting to do the work yourself.

    Then when the task is completed, let them know so you can celebrate together. Now that you have slayed your own dragon, you can start to reclaim your confidence. By you utilizing them as your guide, you get the added bonus of someone you respect and admire, telling you how amazing you are.

    Think of it like a symbolic passing of the torch. Now, you are both dragon slayers. Which means all the positive attributes you attributed to them slaying your dragons, now belong to you.

    2. Over-Exaggerating and Oversimplifying

    Your past experiences may involve you or someone close to you failing. When you experience failure, you can lose your desire to continue. This has less to do with whether you are brave or scared, and more to do with the fact that your mind does not like failure.

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    No one enjoys participating in events in which they under-perform. Outside of the usual reasons of embarrassment, feelings of inadequacy, and fear of failure – it is simply not fun.

    Who wants to play baseball if they strikeout every time it is their turn? Would you enjoy singing in front of an audience if you were booed off the stage every time you performed? I could go on, but I think you get the point.

    The thing about those two examples is no one really strikes out “every” at-bat. It is also unlikely someone could be booed off the stage “every time” they performed in-front of an audience.

    What ends up happening is you oversimplify and exaggerate your past experiences and then your mind believes you. If you believe you are not good enough to ask someone on a date because they “always” tell you no, then do not be surprised you never muster the courage to do so.

    If you want to overcome these feelings of inadequacy, start by changing your beliefs. This exercise does not need to be complicated. If you believe you strikeout every time it is your turn, I want to you to go to a batting cage and keep swinging until you hit the baseball.

    When you experience success, I want you to take a mental note, write it down, or have someone video it. This is your proof that you do not always strike out. Then, whenever your belief that you are not good enough resurfaces, you are going to replay that video.

    Regardless of the situation, you can find a successful experience that you are overlooking.

    Solution: Read About the Failures of Others

    It sounds a little crazy, I know, but reading about the failures of other successful people will improve your confidence. In a study conducted by Columbia University, they found that teaching students about the failures of great scientists encouraged them to do better.[2]

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    When you are battling fear and self-doubt, you tend to over-exaggerate the abilities of others and diminish your own by comparison. You start to believe the successful are successful because they are courageous risk-takers, who do not take no for an answer. You tell yourself, they are meant to succeed, while you on the other hand are not.

    When you are able to relate to the successful, you start to realize they have the same struggles and challenges you do. The only difference is they kept going.

    Now it is not a question of whether you can succeed, it is a question of whether you want to succeed.

    3. Undervalue Yourself

    What is the main difference between someone who believes they are good enough and someone who does not? The person who believes they are good enough understands they are a person of value.

    What I mean by this is if you do not believe you are worth being listened to, you will not have anything to say. If you do not believe you are good enough to be respected and treated as such, you will accept and rationalize all kinds of mistreatment.

    There is an old saying that we are treated as we allow ourselves to be treated. When someone has the confidence and self-esteem that commands respect, they will not accept being treated any kind of way. However, if someone does not see themselves as worthy, they will remain in toxic situations because they do not believe anything better is on the horizon.

    Dr. Jennifer Crocker, who worked on a series of self-esteem studies, found in her latest research that:[3]

    “College students who based their self-worth on external sources–including appearance, approval from others and even their academic performance–reported more stress, anger, academic problems, relationship conflicts, and had higher levels of drug and alcohol use and symptoms of eating disorders”

    Solution: Internalize Your Self-Worth

    Instead of valuing yourself based on the awards, recognition, and accolades of others, you need to search internally. By basing your perception of yourself on your core values, you can regain control over self-image.

    Instead of focusing on things that are outside of control, keep your mind on what it is that makes you special. You are not defined by your job, relationships, religion, or education. Rather, you are defined by the manner in which you participate in these things. You may be a creative, hard-working, and compassionate person; and that shows up in every thing you do.

    Understand that you do not need to be creative, hard-working, and compassionate all the time to consider yourself these things. You are not trying to be perfect, but you are trying to connect with your true self.

    By understanding the similarities in which you tackle objectives, you will build a consistent and powerful self-worth that stands apart from external confirmation.

    Final Thoughts

    Do not allow your past experiences do dictate your future success. You do not want to look back on your life and have a lot of questions and regrets.

    Build trust in yourself by taking action today. This will help you build the confidence you need to believe in yourself and your ability to become the champion of your life.

    More Inspiration About Motivation

    Featured photo credit: Riccardo Mion via unsplash.com

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    Reference

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