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Professional Columns -
Relationships by Dr. Bill Austin


Some of us have a difficult time accepting ourselves because we see ourselves as not "good enough" or "smart enough" and we give too much thought to what people think about us. Consequently, we spend a great amount of time and energy trying to prove ourselves.

Bill Wilson, a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, wrote that he realized his biggest struggle in accepting himself was his dependence. He went on to write that he depended upon others and circumstances for prestige, security and the like. He asked himself a question that all of us need to answer: "Do we view ourselves from the outside looking in or the inside looking out?"

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One of the ways to answer Bill Wilson's question is to take a look at how we deal with criticisms and how much power we give to other people's opinions about ourselves. When someone criticizes us or doesn't treat us the way we think they should, are we crushed and do we dwell on it for days? Often we can misinterpret the meaning of how others are responding to us.

There is a comical expression that can somewhat describe how sensitive we can be about criticisms. The expression is: "You go to a football game and when they have a huddle, you think they are talking about you!"

We may take it as rejection or shunning when how they are acting has nothing to do with us. I remember when I was doing my clinical training at a local hospital, a nurse who had been friendly and outgoing was distant. I wondered what I had done to make her distant. Come to find out, she was pre-occupied with her personal problems. How she was relating to me had nothing to do with me, yet because of my own insecurities I had misinterpreted her actions.

It has been pointed out that the reason we spend so much time trying to prove ourselves and be accepted by others is because we do not accept ourselves. There is nothing externally that makes us feel worthwhile if we do not value ourselves. We have found that trying to prove ourselves only leads to disappointments because no one's approval can replace our own. I like what a coach said to his team in the film Cool Runnings: "If you're not good enough without the medal, you won't be good enough with it."

Some introspective questions to ask ourselves are: Who are the people we are trying to impress or gain approval from? Why them? For some of us, the people we seek approval from are authority figures, wealthy people and successful people. We usually give power to people who have what we envy and what we believe we do not have.

Next month I will continue to discuss how to switch viewing ourselves from the outside to the inside.

Dr. Austin has decades of experience dealing with relationships. He charges clients on a sliding scale according to their ability to pay. His first book, Creating Our Safe Place: Articles on Healthy Relationships, was published in 2004. His second book, Keeping It Safe, was published in 2009 and can be purchased through,, and at the Parrish Book Store in Virginia Beach.  He is also a sought-after speaker at meetings and seminars.

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