Love Yourself and Grow Your Self-Esteem
Julie called asking for help. She shared stories of emotional abuse and an array of other challenging situations she wanted help with.
Early in our conversation she brought up a recurring problem related to what she described as low self-esteem.
The roots of the problem extended back in time to an abusive relationship from years earlier. It showed up in her day-to-day life as frequent deprecating self-talk with feelings of failure and unworthiness.
I asked Julie if there were times she felt good about herself. She replied,
"I don't know if I've ever had high self-esteem. There are times I feel good about what I've accomplished, but I'm always looking at what I haven't accomplished. I look at what's missing in my life."
Julie's habitual pattern of looking at what hasn't been accomplished, what's not "good enough", what's missing, was the fuel firing her negative self-talk and judgements about herself.
We all engage in negative self-talk and judgements about what hasn't been accomplished from time to time.
One way to counter this pattern when you become aware of it is to stop, allow a slow, deep in and out breath, and ask yourself,
"Is this really true all of the time? Are there times when I succeed in what I put my mind to?"
When you are honest with yourself, the likely answer is,
"No it's not true all the time. And yes, there are times when I succeed in what I put my mind to."
Here's the secret:
You don't want to habitually look at what has not been accomplished. Rather, look at what you have accomplished. Really connect to the positive sensations that come with your memories of those successes.
Your Success Journal
Here's a useful tool to help change the habitual "looking at what's wrong" pattern. Start a Success Journal and capture your accomplishments, your achievements, every day. Yes, write those achievements down in your journal daily or several times a week.
Use a simple notebook or bound journal, write down daily accomplishments, daily achievements. Short bullet points are fine or - if you prefer - you can write extensively about your successes.
What Have You Achieved Today?
What have you achieved today? Write it down at the end of the day. Write down the top two, three, four, or five achievements. Some will be simple. Some will be more important. From a self-esteem point of view, they all matter.
Why? Because the act of writing those achievements allows your brain to revisit the positive experiences and re-experience the positive feelings you originally felt. Whether it's one or two achievements or a half dozen doesn't matter. Write them down. They don't have to be big. Anything you've achieved, anything you've accomplished that day is worth capturing.
Even small successes like vacuuming your residence, connecting with a friend, engaging in what you thought would be a difficult conversation, all matter. Aim to capture at least three success experiences daily, but if there's only one, that's fine.
At the time of your success, acknowledge the accomplishment. Verbally, out loud, tell yourself, "I did a good job". Tell yourself you did a good job immediately after the event and again as you're writing your achievement down in your Success Journal. You also want to write down any act of kindness you did or received from someone else.
What If I Messed Up?
In those cases where you honestly assess your performance came up short, acknowledge that fact. Tell yourself something like,
"I could have done better."
Then say to yourself,
"The next I'm faced with this type of situation, here's what I'll do differently."
Rehearse in mind doing those things you've decided to do in any similar future situation and feel good about making a decision to improve your performance, to be kinder, or do whatever else is needed.
After identifying how you'll respond and visualizing that chosen behavior, write it down in your Success Journal. Don't just think about it. I strongly encourage you to write down the ideas about what you'll do differently if a similar situation arises.
Celebrate your accomplishments, learn from mistakes, and capture it all in your Success Journal.
There is No Failure, Only Feedback
Remember, there is no failure, only feedback. Failure is a label you give to a particular situation that is, in fact, only feedback. Feedback helps you identify what works, what doesn't, and what changes are needed.
Reframing failure as feedback helps put challenging situations in perspective. It offers your brain a neutral, fact based point of view.
Recall, however, the primary focus is on achievements, on accomplishments. Periodically review what you've captured in your Success Journal. When you do that, you'll feel good. Your sense of self-worth will grow.
Returning attention to Julie's situation, after our session she chose to create a Success Journal and take the actions we talked about in this post.
When she and I first talked I asked her to rate her self-esteem on a "0 - 10" scale with "10" being maximum self-esteem and "0" being virtually none. Her initial rating was a "2".
After three weeks of keeping a Success Journal to capture daily achievements, I again asked that she rate her sense of self-esteem. This second time she rated her self-esteem at a solid "7" and growing.
Focus on What You're Accomplishing
If you really want to improve your self-esteem, a great way to do that is to focus on what you're accomplishing. Bring those accomplishments center stage in your awareness using your Success Journal.
Recognize and celebrate those accomplishments. It won't take long before your self-esteem - the way you feel about your self, your self-worth, your life, your journey in this world - is likely to massively improve.
Companion, "Easy Stress Cures" Podcast Episode for This Blogpost
You can listen to the companion podcast episode for this blogpost by clicking the audio player below.
Stephen Carter is a FREA volunteer and CEO of Stress Solutions, LLC, a company dedicated to helping people enhance physical and emotional wellbeing through stress mastery using mind-body methods. He hosts the, "Easy Stress Cures", and "EFT Tapping Junction" podcasts. Steve can be reached at CarterMethod@gmail.com.