Humans formulate opinions of self based upon the collected experiences of life. Some are fortunate enough to grow and develop in positive nurturing environments that foster optimal beliefs systems. Others have a more difficult time remaining positive about themselves and life in general. Regardless of one’s background there is nothing that anyone can do to change history. We have no control over our past only our present. We have the ability to change how we feel about ourselves at any time. The choice is ours.
So what can one do to instill this change? How can we make temporary feelings of adequacy a permanent part of our psych? What follows are a number of examples that researchers, teachers, students and others have suggested to help work towards improvement.
Change your self talk. As has been mentioned on other pages (Visualizations an Affirmations) many of us have learned to be self depreciating. We are told that we should not blow our own horn or hold our head too high. In some cultures this is more pronounced than others (e.g., Asian cultures). As a result our internal dialog be comes negative. Take a simple test by carrying piece of paper around with you for a few of days. From the time you wake up until you go to sleep record how many positive comments you make to yourself on one side of the paper and how many negative things you say on the other side. Begin to analyze and challenge any negative thoughts (rational emotive therapy). Practice including more positive statements into your day. Begin with the first time you look in the mirror in the morning. Get in the habit of starting each day with an affirmation. I have a friend who takes a stack of index cards with different affirmations about himself on each card. He shuffles the deck, stands in front of the mirror and reads each card out loud to himself. After a while one will begin to believe what they are hearing. Positive self talk does not work without commitment and desire. Otherwise without drive one is just going through the motions.
Model the person you want to be: If you want to learn to behave in a different way then just start act as though you already have that behavior. Play the new role long enough and you will become that person.
Don’t articulate pessimism or hang around negative sarcastic people. It is difficult to maintain your positive perpsepctive if all you hear is negative crap. Negative people tend to bring others down. People will not want to be around you if you are always being negative and you should refuse to associate with people who do not support your good feelings.
Do not accept put downs from other people. Be assertive and let them know that you do not appreciate negative criticism. What ever people say to you, you do not need to internalize the message or believe it. You have no control over what what other do or say only you own beliefs. If someone does not like you that is their problem not yours.
When someone compliments you, say thank you. Some people go out of their way to refute anything nice that is said about them. They don’t believe the compliment and think that they need to disagree with the compliment. Just say, thank you and smile.
Surround yourself with positive influences eliminate negative ones. Don’t watch movies or TV shows about disturbing topics that bring you down (e.g., I refuse to watch stories about child abuse and sexual assault, etc., because it makes me angry). Turn off the news, don’t read the op. ed. section in local papers. Don’t dwell on the news, especially events that make you feel powerless to influence. Instead rent funny movies that make you laugh, and read books like Chicken Soup for the Soul. Read inspirational biographies.
Set achievable realistic goals and work to accomplish them. When you achieve your goals celebrate and get other to celebrate with you.
Find a mentor. Peak performance in competitive circumstances requires skills and attitudes. Skills: through knowledge of game, game winning strategies, expertise in execution. Attitudes: inner process, unconscious, self-image, beliefs, feelings. Find someone who can help you develop the skills and attitudes you need to succeed. Losers believe attitude can't be learned, you've either got it or you don't. In most persons peak performances happen by chance in consistent peak performers they happen by choice.
Avoid comparisons with others. If you are constantly comparing yourself to others you will always find someone who is prettier, smarter, stronger, slimmer, more confident or competent. Comparisons are a waste of time, focus on yourself.
Visualize change in yourself. Imagination is stronger than the will. Imagine the person you want to become six months down the road.
Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty. One of the best ways to feel good about yourself is to do good things for others. Altruism is a common trait among those with positive self esteem. If you can make someone else feel good it will make you feel good. When I taught middle school I would force my students to be nice to each other. Some kids only feel good when they are able to put someone else down. Some never grow out of this. After discussing the importance of self esteem in health. Students would brainstorm ways to feel better about themselves. Eventually, someone would suggest paying compliments to others. So we would practice in class with one person in a the center of circle made by the rest of the students. Each person on the outside of the circle would be required to give the person on the inside a compliment by looking the person in the eyes. The person in the center looks in the eyes of the one giving the compliment and is allowed to say nothing but thank you. this is repeated until everyone has given a compliment and everyone has been in the center receiving. Students are then challenged to change the world by going out and practicing random acts of kindness for one week. They must document their efforts and feeling in their journal which is turned in as an assignment. I often have college students do the same assignment and receive good feedback from students.
Take action to improve your self image. Change your body image through exercise and other healthy behaviors. Just taking part in healthier behaviors will make you feel good. When physical changes occur you will feel even better.
What additional ideas do you have?
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