Using the past, present & future to boost your self esteem
We have all struggled with self-esteem issues at some point in our life. Experiencing negative feelings about they way we look, criticising our actions or being filled with self doubt. These negative feelings have a strong impact on our wellbeing, with some experiencing sadness and depression, lack of self-care, relationship problems or an inability to participate in activities for fear of judgement.
As a Wellness Coach, I know that a high self-esteem is a critical element in allowing us to make positive changes toward living a more beautiful, healthy and meaningful life. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, believes that one way we can enhance our self-esteem is by developing a positive appreciation of, and relationship to, the past, present and future (Margaret Moore and Bob Tschannen-Moran 2010).
I have mentioned gratitude in a few of my posts but it truly is a powerful tool! The past has a profound impact on who we are and has gotten us to where we are today and people who think about the past in a positive way have increased capacity for happiness and self-esteem. To increase your gratitude for the past try a "Gratitude Visit". To do this, Seligman recommends writing a thank you letter to someone who has positively affected your life. Make sure you tell them what they did for you and how it affected your life. This gives you the opportunity to experience what it is like to express gratitude in a thoughtful and purposeful manner.
For a positive past we also need to forgive and forget. This can often be a very complex and difficult task for some who have experienced a painful past. Forgiveness can take time and it is ok if it hurts too much to forgive. However, if you are able to forgive people, evidence suggests that the positive feeling associated with forgiveness will increase your happiness, life satisfaction and relationships with others. Ultimately improving your self-esteem and self worth.
Finally, by having a sense of satisfaction with your past you will be able to build your self-esteem. To do this Seligman, recommends using a 10 point scale from low to high to determine how satisfied you are with your life. You can increase you life satisfaction by helping others, pursuing positive causes and being fully engaged in life. You can also increase your satisfaction number by changing your interpretation of the past and recognise the positive aspects that occurred.
By practicing mindfulness we are better able to observe our negative thought patterns and behaviours. It can teach us to have self compassion, treat ourselves with kindness and build our self-confidence. Practice mindfulness by slowing down, listening to your body, surrounds and paying attention to the now. When you become mindful you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and build awareness to start creating positive thinking and behavioural habits.
By savouring the here and now we can truly enjoy and connect deeply with life experiences. Seligman has identified four kinds of savouring which increase our self-esteem (1) Basking in praise; (2) Expressing gratitude; (3) Losing yourself in a moment; and (4) Indulging the senses.
For a positive present you should engage in activities that blissfully absorb you. Activities where you are challenged in a positive sense causing you to lose track of time and bring about positive emotions. Some people may achieve this by spending time with their family, stepping out into nature or undertaking a project. By engaging in your flow on a regular basis you will increase your happiness and sense of wellbeing.
To have a positive future, we need to have an optimistic vision for the future. A vision may be for your health, wellbeing, fitness, work or family. By identifying a vision for a desired future, writing it down and sharing it with others we begin to build our self-esteem and have something positive to work toward.
Creating a vision is not enough on its own. We must look forward to achieving that vision with great expectations. A vision can lose its power if it is forgotten. Keep your vision in a place where you can review it regularly and it will serve to increase your anticipation for achieving a positive future.
The final step to a positive future is to confront and dispute with realism any internal or external negative reports. By using evidence, alternatives and reasoning you can challenge unhelpful beliefs and work toward a positive future.
Note: If you are experiencing very low-self esteem and considering seeking assistance you may benefit more from therapy than from coaching.