IMAGE: Proyecto ART Logo
Text: Alejandra Misiolek Marín
There is no magic trick to raise self-esteem, nor is it achieved in the way it is commonly believed and tried, which is through having a perfect body, a partner my friends envy, a good job, a lot of money, designer clothes, etc.
Many times, my patients tell me that when they manage to lose weight, they will feel self-confident. Thinking this way is magical thinking, on the one hand, and false on the other. Why? Because if we do not change something at the base, all this will be useless and will be a never ending story: first lose weight, once thin, you will find another job, now get a partner, once you have a partner, now work. It is a story that ends in a lot of frustration.
So, what can we do to make all these things we achieve in life valuable and contribute to our sense of self instead of becoming a source of obsession and frustration?
Based on what science and clinical experience tells us and what we have described in the previous post about self-esteem, here we are going to describe some strategies that will help us to raise our self-esteem.
1.Become aware. Stopping and thinking about what we are feeling and thinking, how we address ourselves, what our internal language is, etc., are mindfulness strategies that form an essential basis to be able to change something.
Example: realizing that when something does not work, I tend to address myself as “useless”.
2. Understand. Becoming aware of our mental patterns often goes hand in hand with judging ourselves. “I beat myself up for beating myself up” is a conclusion many of my patients come to. It helps to understand where our patterns come from. Understanding paves the way for acceptance.
Example: understanding that I address myself as “useless” because that is what my parents called me when something was not going right.
3. Do not judge. Take things as they are, neutrally and without value judgments. It’s hard but realizing that the value we ascribe to certain things comes from how our environment judged them. It is very liberating to understand this and to be able to give them our own value.
Example: asking yourself if the fact that the internet is not working properly and that’s why I can’t connect to an online class, is it really proof of my “uselessness”?
4. Accept. The great paradox of change is based on the idea that we can only change something in ourselves if we first accept it. This idea is counterintuitive because what we want to change is the very thing we do not accept. However, the basis of this paradox is that if I want to change because I do not like and accept myself, I start from “self-hatred” and not from “self-love”.
Example: If I understand that my way of calling myself “useless” is automatic because that’s how the human brain works, I don’t beat myself up for doing it to myself, because somehow, I accept it. This acceptance is the basis for change.
5. Have your opinion. Once you have become aware of what you do, you have not judged yourself and you have accepted what you do because it is automatic; ask yourself: What do you think? do you agree? Work on having your own opinion.
Example: If the internet is down and you can’t connect to your online class, what do you think about this situation? What do you think this situation says about yourself?
6. Mental space. When you do all these operations consciously, you introduce more mental space between input and output. With this you start to live your reactions as your own and you are not afraid of them, you start to trust that you will react according to yourself.
Example: When the internet doesn’t work, before getting angry, you evaluate what has happened and give your opinion about the situation.
7. Sense of agency. Thanks to the introduction of such mental space you start to feel that things do not happen to you as if you were a passive object, but you start to be an active subject. This is what we call the feeling of agency. It is very important because it helps you feel more empowered and less afraid of the things that happen in life.
Example: When the internet doesn’t work and you manage not to automatically judge yourself, you can think about how it happened. You may realize what you could do to solve it or what you could have done to avoid it. You begin to see that the world doesn’t end and that there are solutions that depend on you.
8. Coherence. At this point in the process you reach a greater sense of coherence than before. Coherence between what we do, what we think of ourselves and how we want to see ourselves is very important for a feeling of self-confidence.
Example: If I consider myself a decisive person and I want others to perceive me in this way, when the Internet does not work, I look for a solution to repair it or to recover the lost class, without wasting energy in self-accusation.
9. Rewards. If you have been able to deduce that your self-esteem is low because you have not been valued enough, you have to learn to value and reward yourself for the things you do. Now you are probably the person who is beating yourself up the most, not others.
Example: If you have managed to solve the internet problem and it is working, take a moment to value yourself for it. “What a problem solver I am” is a phrase that is both true and very powerful in strengthening your self-esteem.