My best friend is short-selling her dream home.  In the current economic climate, the beautiful home she spent years planning, building and decorating has become such a burden that she just wants it gone, the burden off her shoulders.  She considers herself lucky that she has a buyer at all and won’t go into foreclosure.

I’ve used the phrase “don’t sell yourself short” hundreds of times in my life, and never understood the meaning of it until now.  It means, literally, accepting less than you are worth.

When I teach a quilting class, I have one rule: No one gets to say anything bad about themselves or anyone else.  I have a list of words that are banned, words like “stupid”, “idiot”, “challenged” and so on.  These words take away our worth and power.  If we use them on ourselves, we give it away: we sell ourselves short.

Short-selling is a survival tactic.  Better to sell the house for what you can get than to let it go into foreclosure and have nothing.  Better to agree with the abusive husband so he’ll stop hitting right now than end up in the hospital (or worse).

But don’t let the survival tactic become a lifestyle.

Our bodies have something called the fight-or-flight reaction.  When we’re threatened, the adrenalin rushes and  resources are directed away from immune, digestive and other systems to the muscles and reflex systems so that we are prepared to fight for our lives.  This is a good thing, for a few moments.

However, chronic stress causes these systems to stay engaged long-term.  And when that happens, the immune system and all of the other systems that maintain our well-being deteriorate.  Chronic illnesses develop.  What was a survival tactic in the short term kills us in the long term.

Listen to yourself closely and hear what you say about yourself — out loud and in your head.  If you are talking negatively, ask yourself how, when, why, who taught you to sell yourself short.  When did survival mode become emotional lifestyle?  When did you start believing others who told you you were worth less than you really are?

My favorite line from the Bible says “love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  Not love them more or less than yourself: to love yourself and others equally.  I believe it is really impossible to treat others with any more true respect than you hold for yourself.

Getting out of a short-selling situation — financial or emotional — can be a long, hard process.  But as the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step — or word.  Begin today to change your negative words to positive ones.  Use encouraging words on yourself like “I’m learning to…”.  If there are people around you who continue to put you down, at least tell yourself the truth that you have value, that you are progressing, that you have potential. 

The more you believe it, the more everyone else will.