Being sel-critical helps to keep low self-esteem going , but is only one half of the equatipobn . The other half is ignoring or discounting your good points, and failing to treat yourself with kindness, consideration and respect.
LEARNING TO APPRECIATE GOOD POINTS
Low self-esteem makes you alert for anything negative about yourself at the expense of anything positive. Even if you occasionally notice ypour good qualities you may discount or forget them, or see them as exceptions rather than as a true reflection of who you are. You might think ,’I know the meal I made was nice, but anyone could have done it, probably better ‘. Unsurprisingly these biases against yourself will naturally affect your mood, energy and motivation and make you feel that you are not worth treating with consideration . Learning to value your good points will help you to do yourself justice and develop the feeling that it is okay to be you.
Watch out for”Yes,but…’s
If your low self-esteem is well embedded , the idea of appreciating your positive qualities may seem entirely alien to you. As you try out the strategies outlined below, you will almost certainly have thoughts along the lines of”Yes,but…” : Yes ,but that would be boasting !” Yes, but suppose other people don’t agree ? ‘ Yes, I am generous , but only sometimes .’ These will seem more convincing and belieevable when your mood is low. Yes, but ….’s may seem like barriers to progress , but in the fact they are extremely useful . Every time you notice one, you are in the fact catching something that keeps you stuck in low self-esteem , right in front of your very eyes . Yes, but …. ‘s are actually helping you to find out more about yourself.
Identifying good points
It is a good idea to use a notebook for this exercise. Try making a list of your positive qualities. How many come to mind will vary from person to person. If your low self-esteem is not there all the time, or is not very strong , then you might be able to come up with ten or even twenty positive qualities , after giving yourself time to reflect . If your low self-esteem is persistent and long standing , and no one taught you to value yourself and treat yourself respectfully , you may find it difficult to think of even one .
Don’t despair, You are a new developing mental muscle . At first you will feel stiff and awakward but, if you keep practising , it will get easier and you will find that you are able to come up with several positive qualities. Don’t worry if you can only find one or two good points to start with, and if even that take a while , stick with it. Take your time , go at your own pace , continue to add things as they occur to you, leave your list and come back to it as many times as you need. If you have a supporter , ask them how they see you: they can probably see good qualities in you that you have trouble noticing for yoursself.
Making it real: reliving
Recognising your good points needs to become part of your everyday thinking, not just words written down in a peace of paper. Once you havev your list , find a time and place to relax and reflect. Focus on your first item, and recall a recent occasion when you demonstrated this quality in your behaviour . For instance, if your first positive quality is,’ I’m helpful’, try to bring to mind a recent occasion when you were indeed helpful. It should be recent because you need to remember clearly what happened . Recreate the situation in your mind ‘s eye. Call up a vivid image – what you saw , what you heard, what you felt in your body . Home in on what you did that was helpful and the emotions you experienced at the time.
‘Helpful’ was the first positive quality on Jenny’s list , and she recalled helping her small brother to set up a new game on his computer. She could see his face in her mind’s eye and hear his excited squeaks. She could feel his hug, and her love for him. Bringing this vividly to mind made’helpful’ real to her . When yoy have relived an example of your first positive quality, move on to the next and so on down the list. It’s helpful to write down , in detail , the memories you discover , so that you can bring them to mind in future just as vividly.
Making it part of everyday life
It is also important to notice your good points in everyday life. The best way is to record them for a while . Our memories are often unreliable , so write down what hapened in enough detail to be able to recall it later. Don’t write,’I was honest.’ but rather:’ I admitted to a colleague that I had forgotten to act on her request’. At the end of each day , review what you have written and call up the memory of what you did as vividly as you can. Let it sink in, and notice how this affects the way you feel about yourself. Later on , especially on days when you feel unconfident and sad and it is hard to remember anything positive about yourself , you will be able to find reminders in your notes.
Once you have become better at recognizing your good points , you may not need to write them down any more(though you may wish to do so) . Some people establish this new habit within three or four weeks; others take longer. Part of respecting and caring for yourself is allowing yourself all the time you need.
Exercise: Treating yourself with kindness
You may be good at treatinh other people well, anticipating their needs , being generous, and tolerant, and compassionate when they make mistakes or things go wrong for them. But how you treat yourself could be rather different. It may be hard for you to recognize your needs, or act on signs that you are tired , stressed , unwell or depressed . You may rarely(if ever) set aside time to do things you enjoy, that allow you to relax, replenish your resources and be at peace with yourself.
Thinking about how spend your time may help to bring this into focus. This exercise is similar to activity scheduling for depression , but is specifically designed to encourage you to treat yourself kindly.
In your notebook , write down what you do on a typical day. If you work , you could write down your activities for two days-a working day and lesisure day .Start with’get up’ and carry on till you get to ‘go to bed’. Then look at each activity and ask yourself if, on balance, it nourishes or depletes you. . ‘Nourishing’ activities lift your mood,energize you, and help you feel calm and centred.
This includes purely enjoyable and relating activities , as well as things that may not be very enjoyable but give you a sense that you are taking care of business, running your life instead of letting it run you. Depleting activities on the other hand , drag you down , drain your energy , make you feel tense and uptight . Write”N” against activities that nourish you and ”D” against those that deplete you. Some activities may do neither , and some will do both, depending on circumstances . See if you can work out what those circumstances are.
When you have given ”N” or ”D” to each activity , look at the pattern .Is the balance between them satisfactory ? Would you like to increase your nourishing activities or decrease your depkleting ones?
For example , you could:
- Add activities you enjoy but have not done lately( such as going to the cinema) ; take time to care for your body (things like exercises, healthy eating, relaxtation).
- Include treats-simple things like buying yourself flowers or a ticket to a football match , taking time to watch a sunset or play with a pet , choosing what TV programmes to watch instead of watching on autopilot.
- Make sure you include activities you have been putting off (writing that email, sorting out that cupboard ) Drop or curtail depleting activities (such as restricting Facebook to the end of the day, limiting how much time you spend on it , and not spending hours talking to people who make you feel bad). As you make these changes , keep writing your activities down . Notice when you start to have more nourishing activities, and see if this makes a difference to how to feel , including how you feel about yourself . You will only benefit from such changes if you focus attention on what you do , You cannot savour relaxing activities or feel satisfied with completed tasks if your mind is elsewhere .
- Even routine tasks can reveal unexpected riches if you pay attention . Consider taking a shower , for example -what a feast for the senses!
- Experiment with really being present for enjoyable experiences , instead of letting them pass you by. How you pay attention also makes a difference to activities you do not particularly enjoy but have to do .
- For instance, if you do washing up with your mind full of ” It’s not fair -nobody appreciate what I do’, then washing up will deplete you . However, if you experiment with focusing on the warmth of the water , the sensation of bubbles , the texture and weight of the things you are washing , your experience may change . The same careful attentiveness can transform all sorts of routine chores.
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