Practical Applications for Building Self-Esteem
Building a Better Me
How do you build self esteem when you don’t have enough to know you deserve to be built up? I believe “fake it until you make it” is only a tool for those determined to “make it”. But what about those of us who are so beaten down that we feel we don’t deserve to do anything but wallow in our lives? Yeah I said us. To cut to the chase feel free to fill in the details of me growing up that are similar to your own so you feel like we are kindred spirits. As long as you get to the conclusion that as humans we all struggle with self esteem we can go ahead and move forward. With me now? Awesome, let’s get to what it takes to build a better me (and you!). At the end of this article I will share with you the tools that I personally used to gain self esteem.
No amount of any one “thing” will get you to a better tomorrow. But I am forming an idea of a reverse grieving system in my mind that if you don’t mind I would like to explore here. The “five stages of grief” are as follows: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance in that order. Maybe we experienced these subconsciously growing up as a little piece of us died each day. But now as adults who realize that we want to change how do we reverse the process?
Acceptance – it’s not exclusive to NYADA anymore.
That’s a performing arts school and a subtle reference to Glee. All of my adult life – you know the point at which I decided I needed help – I have heard we have to love ourselves first, we have to accept who we are, and we deserve better. I think someone missed a few steps here. I came to realize I had to stop fighting discovering who I am before I could face the new day. I “faked it” most of my teen and college life. There was no better tomorrow – just faking it and shutting people out.
I had to accept that I had demons and damage in my closet. I had to accept that I would someday have to face them, accept that today doesn’t have to be that way, and accept that the person I hated (me by the way) was never going to change. Essentially I accepted the darkness in my life. Hell I embraced it. I stopped hiding from my dark side (no Star Wars reference here) and stop denying parts of myself. I had to accept that is ok to feel the way I feel. Period. End of Story. To even begin to love ourselves we have to stop denying ourselves.
Here is one for you to fill out in your mind: “It is ok to feel like ____________”. I have no problems telling you that my favorite love song is “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem or that “Fight Club” broke my mind so I could start the path to being me. I can tell you I really don’t like my kids or my wife sometimes. I don’t even like Mordant every single minute of every single day. But that is only the one aspect of me. I love all of these people and some days they bring me immeasurable joy. The point is I have accepted that I have these “bad” feelings and I am still OK.
Depression ain’t so great..
Once you start accepting the parts you avoid, hide from, deny, but ultimately know are there you begin to see some things are not so bad. It’s depressing as hell to see that you ruined relationships and missed out on life. It’s depressing as hell to start facing the reality that you really are responsible for the bad shit in your life. It’s depressing to start shining a light on your messes. And for those of you who don’t like the language I apologize. In this area I feel like I need to talk straight so if it helps you can go back and mentally insert the “Excellent” clip from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures over the bad words. But depression (and guilt) should show you that you care.
To get started moving away from this stage, you have to ask yourself “why does this make me feel bad” or “why do I care?” I promise if you seek out the answers with passion you will find healing. The fact that you feel bad is a light shining on something good. As they say, “Polish that turd and you will see the cat swallowed your diamonds.” Stay tuned to the end and I will share a set of tools I learned to get answers.
Bargaining – insert catchy phrase here
I found in my journey that we start bargaining in reverse. In grief and economy when you bargain it involves some sacrifice on your part to receive something good that you need. Accept as we move from the understandable depression we continue to keep ourselves down. As you clean up the messages in your life you feel like a huge weight is beginning to lift and you start seeing some good in what you do. Notice I said in what you do – not who you are. We still feel like unworthy people but we start to see the positive effects in what we do. So our mindset of unworthiness clashes directly with the reality that we are doing something worthy.
To temporarily keep the universe from being ripped in two we strike a bargain. To bargain in reverse we have to deny all “payments” and tell people they don’t want what we are selling. We are selling – sometimes even intentionally – yet we still don’t want people to see who we really are yet. The bargain I continually used was “you don’t really know me”. The truth was I don’t really know me so I can’t accept what you see. Every “atta boy” was bargained away with “I can do better” or “of course you say that you (fill in the blank).”
Eventually this also wears thin but you don’t see what is happening in the background. As you seek truth in your life you unwittingly open yourself up to truth to be heard. It is impossible to deny all “payments” and stay in business. So what we do is accept just enough business to remain open. By that I mean we will accept a compliment or a positive truth about ourselves sometimes during this phase. Those truths are slowly replacing the bad messages in our lives and eventually the truth will set you free.
Your life has been built with plumbing. As you received messages about yourself from the outside world you laid new pipes. And continued to do so until you had a high pressure mess of a maze that defines you. As you move past bargaining some of those pipe connections fail. The water is under pressure, sometimes lots of pressure. When a message pipe gives way the pent up emotions come flooding out overwhelming us. Just like mixing all colors makes black, mixing these strong emotions usually makes anger. Anger at ourselves, at the world, and at the root of our message. “Hulk smash” level of anger.
Now if we are very fortunate we can emotionally shut the flow off and deal with one pipe at a time. In reality sometimes you get overwhelmed. I personally ended up screaming under a table and quite honestly lost my shit “excellent”. Ask me about it on the show sometime.
The ultimate truth here is that it doesn’t matter how the pipe burst – we have to fix it. You will find anger at the root cause of your message, anger at the situation, and anger at yourself for accepting the message. The awesome thing is you don’t have to worry about it. Knowing the answer to why the pipe was there in the first place automatically fixes the problem. And by “fix the problem” I mean like surgery. The problem has been removed or sealed or whatever but you still have to heal. Don’t expect to be “better” instantly – no matter what it takes time and effort to heal.
Denial is Acceptance in reverse
While yes it is true that you will go through all of the stages many times you are not actually living in denial. As humans we can literally only perceive a finite amount of input or stimulus. Know that it is ok to only work on a few minor problems at a time. Know that it is ok that you don’t want to deal with other problems. And accept that admitting you have damage in your life is a great step. Yes I am talking acceptance instead of denial because as you are reversing the steps of grief you are also reversing the natural outcome. In each issue or message you will follow the first 4 steps more or less in order. But the great thing is as you deal with the message and get to the end of step four: anger you magically flip the denial into acceptance of a better you.
This is done in small steps over whatever length of time works for you. Just like losing weight. I lost somewhere between 1 to 2 pounds a week. I did this over a year and one day I looked up and realized I was smaller and healthier by a vast amount. I wasn’t conscious of the progress. I focused on the day to day effort and eventually looked up and saw the new me. You will do that as well with this healing process.
The practical tools
I credit these tools to the counselors at Christian Families Today. I sought therapy and found help. They showed me this system and I am now passing it on to you. We all have messages in our lives that act as filters. We experience an event in childhood that implants some kind of message about ourselves. As we grow older every other event pings off of those earlier messages like a pinball. So when we instantly get angry at a comment from our loved ones, it’s because we automatically took our message from the childhood event and processed the comment. No matter what the new event is we can only hear the message through the filter.
To fix the filter you have to discover what it is. This system by CFT includes three steps to practically get to the root of the problem. If you need my stories as an example email me at email@example.com.
First ask yourself “What is one of my earliest memories?” Write it down. I found that talking it out into a microphone or to another person helped me. You need to have it recorded or written so you can reference it for the second step.
Next ask yourself “How does that make me feel?” It is important to realize and verbalize your feelings from this memory because this is why you act the way you do. Really allow yourself to be brutally honest and openly truthful about it. This is the baby step that leads to the larger healing.
Finally ask yourself “What does this tell me about myself now?” You will be amazed at how easily you start to realize why you do what you do. And like G.I Joe says “I am what I am.” No wait that’s Popeye. “Knowing is half the battle…” is what I was shooting for. Once you know the why, fixing it is fairly straightforward, simple, and personal. Yeah I don’t have a magic step to changing your behavior, I can just get you there – its up to you what you do with the information.
Get more information like this by joining R. Mordant Mahon and myself at our conference in June – http://www.eventbrite.com/event/5251850426/eorg , and tune in every Tuesday night 9pm E www.successfreaks.com/nas.
~ Charles McFall
My Three Goals For 2013 – Part Dos
Last month I shared my first Goal for 2013 which was To Learn More. I’ve purchased a couple of new books to read…mostly self-helpy…and I’m eyeing a mystery or two that kinda intrigue me. It’s a start, but you’re here to find out what my next goal is. My second Goal for 2013 fits quite nicely into our February theme here on Success Freaks. My Second Goal, quite simply, is to learn to love myself more…to treat myself better than I have…to make my wants, my needs, my happiness a priority. Easier said than done…
“Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home… it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it.” ~Chuck Palahniuk~
It’s a really good quote and so very appropriate for this Goal. (Thanks Mordant) It seems like I’ve spent most of my life trying to please others. I always try to go out of my way to make sure my friends, family, and even complete strangers are happy. If someone expresses a desire for something, I try to make sure they get it. While this may be quite noble, thoughtful or whatever, it’s also allowed me to push myself into more debt than I should be swimming in. Up until recently, I’ve never said “No” to anyone that asked anything of me. Even if I knew I would have to add to my credit card debt, even if it meant I would have to sacrifice something I wanted/needed, even if it meant I would have to suck it up and do something I really wasn’t comfortable with…even if it meant that I would be cast in a dark light just to make someone else shine.
Why do I do these things? I just like to see everyone else happy and…it’s just who I am. So…while I love making other people happy and I’m driven to help them achieve their dreams, I need to start loving myself too. I need to start realizing that I need to shine too. I need to take time off to do things I want. I need to stop working so much so that everyone else can go out and have a good time with their family/friends. I need to start thinking about and loving me.
Is it going to be easy? Nope. I am, however, going to give it my best shot and change what I can…one small step at a time. Am I going to run into opposition from others? Yep, already have. Does this mean I’m going to stop helping everyone and start being selfish? Absolutely NOT! I’m still going to do the things I do for everyone. I’m just going to create an organized schedule making sure to schedule time for what I want too.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” ~That Ferris Bueller was one smart kid.~
Until next time…
Love and laughter to all.
~ Sharyn Watson
Confession of a Mental Hoarder
I define mental hoarding as having and continuing to amass vast amounts of information, usually on the same topic (self-help, in my case), and being unable to put it into practice, due to an overload of contradictory data or seeking more information before thinking a choice of action can be made.
I feel I have suffered from this type mental hoarding. I’ve told myself for years that I had a love of self-help information – books, TV shows, audio tapes, and podcasts, to name a few. My need to consume information would wax and wane as events in my life passed, but if a good source crossed my path, I would snatch it up immediately. I wouldn’t always consume it, but I knew I could at anytime that it was needed. However, the only times I tried to use empowering self-help information were when things were not going the way I wanted them to. For over 20 years, I consumed knowledge. But with all the information, nothing seemed to stick. I always sought out more information, more knowledge, more something that I thought would be the key to actually accomplishing something.
In my case and some others I have witnessed, one of the main triggers for wanting something better is that the situation I was in was not going as well as I would have liked. I sought out how to change the situation and change myself but it was done in an “altered mental state” of needing it right now, usually due to stress and anxiety. I needed the immediate gratification to change the way I was feeling. As stress and anxiety fueled the change, many times the change in self only lasted as long as the fuel did. So the next time something came up, I went in search of something new that “would work” or “would last” and I would not try to make a habit out of the old methods that worked.
This brings up the power of habits and ruts. Thoughts create neural networks in the mind and the more a person thinks or acts a certain way, the more permanent these neural networks of thinking, which are habits, become. As a result, it is more difficult to make a change to an old habit than a new habit or method of thinking, especially when the new neural network is created under conditions that are abnormal or undesirable, such as stress or anxiety. To create a stable habit, it must be repeated in all conditions until it is second nature. Just like the saying “If you have to ask yourself if you are happy, you cease to be happy”, if a person questions if the new way of thinking is a habit, then the person isn’t quite there yet. Mental Hoarders, such as I, often question their thinking and seek out more information to either confirm their thoughts or seek information to supplement what they already know. This gets in the way of just trying and making positive, consistent progress.
It is also my opinion that the culture we live in does not help our mental state. There are numerous sources that say the human sub-conscious mind doesn’t process negatives such as “I am not fat”. The mind only processes “I am fat” and sub-consciously drives a person to attain the image they have set for themselves. The culture we live in is ripe with negative qualifiers, such as “Don’t eat this …”, “Don’t become that …”, “Don’t let yourself slip into …” “Don’t be in debt …”, which trains our thinking into using negative qualifiers. When a person mixes the negative qualifiers of “self-improvement” with positive messages of instant self-gratification found in many junk food, quick loans, or instant mental medical fixes, then there is very little wonder why people are stuck in ruts they aren’t sure how they got in and not sure of how to get out of. This can lead to information overload to a person consumed with acquiring mass amounts of knowledge. This would be like being consumed with collecting rocks. The basket a person has will only hold so much weight and even if they throw some out, more will be there for them to pick up and overload the basket again.
Another aspect of our culture is as the pace of technology picks up, the easier it is for anyone to find information, and the information overload only gets worse. Self-Help books were at one time a prized purchase at the book store that I would read and re-read. Now, I can consume in mass, like a buffet, but not really taking the time to enjoy what is provided. I know there is so much more to consume and I only have a limited amount of time to read or listen or watch in a given day, week or month.
So what steps have I taken to correct my mental hoarding and recommend to others who might be in the same situation? The first step is that I am now careful how much information I consume. I can’t hoard something I don’t have. I love to learn, but that doesn’t mean I have to consume to the point of not being able to take action. If I am so worried about reading about setting goals that I am not actually sitting down to write out my goals and taking action to accomplish those goals, I need to read a bit less and do a bit more.
It might help in clearing the informational room of a mental hoarder to start with only consuming topics with similar messages. The brain can only make so many choices in a day before it starts to wear down and tire out, so if I have to constantly make daily choices on which is the best course to take, I will remove a course and try the other for awhile.
I have set times where I can reflect on my actions. There is value in knowing where I have come from and where I am going in order to make sure it’s positive progression. This is my time to look at new information, ask for help, and make adjustments if necessary.
Another technique to try is the “mimic technique”. Not everyone can be a leader in every aspect of their life. If I see someone making strides, I try and mimic what they are doing or acquire them as a “success mentor”. Someone to have as a “success mentor” can make all the difference if they are willing to work with you and help you out, such as I have done with the Success Freaks.
But above all else, I try to take consistent and persistent positive action all the time. Doing something is better than nothing and doing it consistently and persistently will make it a habit. Just as I can’t get rid of a physical hoard without taking the action to throw something out, I can’t stop being a mental hoarder without taking a positive step.
I have also learned not to be afraid to stumble. Stumbling and failing forward only shows I am trying to accomplish something. Anyone who is a success at something has at least twice as many stories where they failed trying to become that success. I am learning from the situations and continue to move in a positive, forward motion.
So this is my confession as an ex-mental hoarder starting to throw out what isn’t necessary and putting into action the steps I know will work. I will always keep learning, I just don’t have to let it get in the way of making positive progress.
~ Nolan Overton