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Creating Self-esteem - Part 3
Posted: 8/18/2011 | Personal Development Comments
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In Part 1 and Part 2 of this topic, we explored the meaning and importance of self-esteem. We know that childhood experiences may have thwarted our development of self-esteem. So how do we start where we are right now and learn to really value ourselves?

Let’s begin with a few helpful guidelines. I find it’s especially helpful to journal while following these steps. So for this blog it might be helpful to have a pen and some paper handy. 
 
As time goes by and we work with the issues that arise for us we can feel stronger, more confident and more compassionate with ourselves. Remember, on the deepest level we’re all worthy of love, attention and kindness simply because we are human beings. We’re held by God, Spirit, Universe or Grace and we deserve simply because we exist. It’s that simple!
 
That said, in everyday life we experience “triggers.” I often like to start with a client by asking about a difficult situation they are currently experiencing. Right now, I’d like you to think about a time recently where you felt you weren’t good enough, or you felt put down or insecure. Write this down and we’ll come back to it.
 
The first step in helping you feel this down to your bones is to notice and identify the situations and conditions that trigger those thoughts of low self-worth. It’s helpful to write down a list of situations that often shake your confidence in yourself. Here are a few common scenarios to start with. Please add to the list others that are stressful for you:
  1. A business or school presentation
  2. A difficulty at work or at home
  3. A challenge with a significant other, partner, family member, coworker or another close to you
  4. A change in your health, work life, family life, a move or other life circumstances
 
Now that you’ve identified a few situations that trouble you, including the first one that you wrote down, take a deep breath. Let’s take a moment to observe the thoughts and feelings that arise under these circumstances. Notice what you tell yourself when it happens. What do you decide it means about you and your circumstances? Notice the stories that you tell yourself. Notice the content of all these thoughts and feelings. Perhaps you imagine possible outcomes or perhaps a feeling like fear fuels your thinking. Notice if your thoughts and stories seem at all unlikely. Again, its helpful to write down as much of this as you can.
 
Often through the lens of fear, our thoughts and beliefs seem entirely absolute and accurate, even when they are not. Most of us have been thinking the same patterns of thought and feelings, triggered by the same types of situations for most of our lives. It’s tricky at first to catch and recognize them. Ask yourself:
  1. What do you tell yourself when a disturbing event happens?
  2. What do you decide it means about you?
  3. What do you decide it means about others and the world?
  4. What are the feelings that arise … shame, fear, grief?
 
Now we can begin to see that our thoughts are often just unexamined opinions, beliefs and perceptions based upon something we decided a long time ago. Here are a few ways of thinking that can throw us off:
 
  1. Black and White or All-or-nothing thinking. Notice when you see a situation as either all good or all bad. For example, “If I don’t get that man/woman to marry me I’m a total failure.”
  2. Fixated on Fear. Notice when you focus and fixate on the fearful thoughts and limiting beliefs, which usually alter your view of yourself, others and the situation. For example, “My boss is angry with me and she/he will never understand.” 
  3. Discounting yourself. Notice when you discount any praise, achievement or validation. For example, “They gave me a raise because they had to, not because of anything good I did.” Or, “I’m only invited to this party because they need another person.” 
  4. Jumping to the “worst-case.” Notice when you come to the worst-case conclusion with little or no evidence. For example, “My friend never called me back, so she must be angry with me.” Or, “I forgot to turn in my report. Now I’ll never move up in this company.”
  5. Confusing feelings for facts. Notice when you confuse facts with feelings, thoughts and beliefs. For example, “I feel ineffective in my work so I must be ineffective.” Or, “I’ve tried to quit smoking and failed. I must be weak.”
  6. Self-criticism. Notice when you put yourself down aloud or in your head, even if you think you’re joking. For example, “I always make mistakes” Or, “I’m such a jerk, I never do it right.”
The last step is working to change the limiting thoughts and beliefs about ourselves. Please take another deep breath, and allow yourself space to see beyond your challenges and begin to recognize your inner strength and power. We can begin this by doing the following:
 
  1. Counter those limiting beliefs and thoughts with affirming statements. Notice when you are caught in your own negative belief systems and then counter them with supportive and encouraging self-talk. This helps us move toward those goals. For example, instead of worrying about the worse-case-scenario, take a belly breath, feel your feet planted on the ground and practice saying something like, “I know I feel _____, but I came prepared and I can do this presentation. I will just focus on what needs to be said next.”
  2. Self Forgiveness. Remember that we are all human beings, and humans are not perfect. Sometimes we make mistakes. Keep in mind that mistakes can be isolated incidents, and might even improve a situation if we can practice kindness toward ourselves and roll with them. For example, “I didn’t know how to work the equipment, and now I’ll continue with the knowledge that it happens to everyone.”
  3. Please refrain from “should-ing” on yourself. Those absolutes of “I should” and “I must” can be deadly. When you hear yourself saying those words, you might be making unreasonable demands on yourself and other people. This will lead to disappointment. When we reduce the usage of these words, both out loud or in our thinking, it helps lessen the pressure we put on ourselves. We lower those unrealistic and unattainable expectations and standards that don’t serve us.
  4. Focus on what’s possible. This takes effort at first but as we practice we find more ways to create success. We grow to be empowered to live the life we know we can. So take the time to deliberately acknowledge all your skills and accomplishments. Pat yourself on the back for meeting life’s challenges and getting through it.
  5. Process and let go of upsetting thoughts.  When you observe a challenging thinking pattern, breathe and remember you are not your thoughts. Remember you can know your worth and see your contribution. Ask yourself, “I know this isn’t true about me and I can handle this. I’ve got everything I need to ride this wave.”
  6. An encouraging word. Please give yourself support when you are dealing with a situation that triggers you. For example, “That wasn’t an easy discussion with my wife/husband, but I spoke a little more kindly than usual and listened to her/his feelings. This is a good start.” 
 
It’s not easy or comfortable to observe and let go of our habitual thinking patterns. These ingrained beliefs and feeling patterns will become lighter and easier with practice.  As we practice being gentle and easy with ourselves, we allow ourselves a little more space to breathe, and we become a little more compassionate with others. Over time, we can build a foundation of healthy self-esteem that allows us to move through life with greater peace and deeper joy.
 
Have you practiced these steps, and how have they worked for you? Let me know what obstacles and successes you’ve experienced. Your comments make a difference for all of us.

 




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