One amazing tool to boost your self-esteem

When I was growing up, I heard a lot about self esteem. The feedback was always something like , “Rachela has great potential but her self-esteem issues seem to get in the way”. What did that mean? What was this self esteem thing?

I found out it’s both very simple and very complicated. ‘Esteem’ means to respect or admire, so self-esteem refers to what you believe about yourself deep down, in other words how much you respect and admire yourself. If you find it uncomfortable even considering that sentence, then read on…

What we believe about ourselves affects every facet of our lives. If our beliefs are rational, balanced and constructive, they are Helpful Beliefs and support healthy self-esteem, for example: “Not everyone will love/like me and that is completely normal and natural”.

But if these beliefs are not rational, balanced and constructive, they are Unhelpful or Limiting Beliefs, ones that stop you behaving in a healthy way and being the true you. For example: “I’m unlovable”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m a bad person”, “I’m a failure”, “I’m not worthy”, or in my case: “I’m stupid”.

Limiting Beliefs are often found under layers of Unhelpful Thoughts; similar to Limiting Beliefs, Unhelpful Thoughts are not rational, balanced or constructive. They may include anxious predictions: “He won’t call”, unwarranted conclusions: “She didn’t call so that means she hates me”, taking things too personally: “I bet he calls everyone else back straight away, just not me” and ‘black and white’ thinking: “If she doesn’t call, then our friendship is over”.

Unlike Limiting Beliefs, Unhelpful Thoughts are generally fleeting and conscious, whereas Limiting Beliefs are deeper and more constant. Unhelpful Beliefs and Thoughts are connected in that they keep each other going. For example, the Unhelpful Thought… “He won’t call” is a natural follow-on from the Limiting Belief “I’m unlovable”. If the anxious prediction comes true, the Unhelpful Belief is confirmed and so begins a vicious cycle. Quite often we actually help our Unhelpful Thoughts. If your predictions are not correct (i.e. he/she does call), do you ignore any learning from this and continue to make similar predictions in the future?
When your predictions do happen, do you sit back with smug satisfaction and a sense of, “Told you so”?

A moment’s consideration can help you realise that this kind of thinking is flawed. May be he didn’t call because he hates you; however it’s far more likely that he was busy, or forgot, or his phone died, or even that he fell off his bike and is in A&E with a very sore wrist. These are all far more likely based on the evidence you have available. This is called Socratic Questioning, where you dig down, probing your assumptions, evidence for or against that belief, and reasons for thinking that way. It’s amazingly effective: just having awareness means you can do something about it.

Stage One: Catch it – Body Alarm
However first you have to catch the Unhelpful Thought, and they are fast, sneaky little so and sos. The best way to do that is to familiarise yourself with how you feel when you have your limiting belief. For example, whenever I get an “I’m stupid” thought, a horrible, heavy, slow, dirty feeling spreads through me. That sensation is your Body Alarm. When I’m feeling it, that it is evidence that an Unhelpful Thought is sneaking around.

Stage Two: Kill it – Turn Around
When you catch it you have to work with it then and there. This is vital to kill the thought. A brilliant way to work with it is a Turn Around.
Let’s try this now.

Grab your Unhelpful Thought and ask yourself, is this 100% true and 100% rational? The answer is often (mostly in fact) no. If the answer is no, ask yourself, what would be more helpful, true and rational?

Tap yourself wherever that nasty belief is coming from, take a step, (yes, an actual step) and breathe in your new, helpful, true and rational self-talk and on the exhalation, allow it to settle deep inside of you.

Think of a time when you didn’t feel the sensations of the Body Alarm, when in fact when you let a general ‘okayness’ with the world (it can be very similar to the feeling you get when someone validates you, perhaps praise from a teacher or a friend telling you how much they like you).

Stage Three: Bin it.
Allow yourself to really manifest and believe that positive feeling. Really drink it in. Notice how it feels after you do the Turn-Around compared to how you felt before, and see whether your Limiting Belief feels as strong.

You will almost certainly have to do this again and again, but it does work. Limiting Beliefs create a neural pathway that gets thicker and better trodden the more often you think it, so the older the belief is, the tougher it is to change. By doing a Turn Around you are helping your brain rewire, replacing a Limiting Belief with a Helpful Belief, one that will boost your self esteem and help you be happier, more confident and more productive in all areas of your life.

After all, we should all respect ourselves… and even admire ourselves a little bit too?

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