Self Esteem - Being Gentle with Ourselves ( Part two )
LETS TALK with Paul Beckow
Goldstream Gazette, April 2010
I feel low these days, down on myself. No matter what I try, what I do, it never seems good enough. I just feel bad lots of the time. Is this a self esteem problem?
Bruce, if you want to impact the area we call self esteem, we need to begin by looking a little closer. Just what is it we refer to when we use the term self esteem?
We speak of self esteem like it is some “thing” we have - or we don’t have. We say we have “low” self esteem or “high self esteem”. We talk like self esteem is a thing.
Although we do speak of it that way, there is nothing inside you called “self esteem”.
Self esteem, your experience of yourself, is ongoingly given by your thoughts - what you are saying to yourself about yourself. What we call self esteem is a function of the constant chatter in your head about your self.
So Bruce, this is the first place to look to manage self esteem . Become aware of, “awake to” your thoughts. Moment by moment, begin to watch and listen in.
When we look at the nature of our thoughts, we notice a few thjngs:
Everyone has constant chatter going on. Most of our thoughts are very automatic. If you sit quietly and notice your thoughts you see them re-cycling around and around, spinning off here and drifting there. Our thoughts have a life of their own. It’s not like we’re doing them. It’s more like, thoughts are doing us.
When paying attention, we see thoughts habitually capture us and secondly many of our thoughts are about ourselves. We are one of our favourite things to think about. People are continuously engaged in opinions, judgments, and stories about themselves.
Further we see our internal conversations are regularly handing us problems with ourselves. That seems to be its job. Thoughts are weighing, judging, evaluating, worrying, comparing, trying to fix and improve ourselves ( and others) - all day long ! Our thoughts have a certain kind of negative pull…busy trying desperately to uphold, and manage our sense of image.
Lastly, notice, we relate to our thoughts as though they were real and true. When we think a thought, for the most part, we believe it. We don’t question it, we believe it.
“I shouldn’t have said that in the meeting….” And we believe that thought. And have the experience ( and problem ) that thought produces.
Unquestioned stressful thoughts. “I should have…” “I shouldn’t have..” “That wasn’t good enough” “She doesn’t like me” “They dont listen” “ I hate it when I do that” . “”I can never..” etc.
This is the first place to look to impact your self esteem.
With these insights, begin to watchdog your thoughts. Observe carefully. Practice allowing many of your thoughts and their conclusions to pass by without catching you. This is the beginning of learning to detach from thoughts and their judgments and see through their mischief. This skill of awareness, begins a process of being gentler with your self.
The second place I recommend you look to support your good feelings about yourself is the whole area of your “actions.”
Supporting our self esteem has something to do with identifying the easy, nurturing actions we can take in any life situation before us - and then taking them. We get ourselves into action.
This is how we can look after ourselves. We ask, what action might I take right now that would satisfy me, take care of me or be effective in this situation? Then do it. Get yourself into action.
It is avoidance and withdrawal that reinforces and strengthens our more troubled feelings about ourselves.
With action we get out of the stands, as a spectator in our lives, and onto the “field” of our life .
We take that walk, make that phone call, communicate that concern to our boss, talk with our brother, cuddle our grandchildren, tidy the garage, finish that tax form, assist our neighbour, sit quietly in the lawn chair in the sun. We take care of ourself with simple easy actions.
Bruce I invite you to begin these practices. They will help you look after your good feelings about yourself , a clear challenge in front of us all.
Paul Beckow is an individual marriage and family counsellor in the West Shore. See wwwpaulbeckow.com
For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.