One of the key characteristics that a close friend of mine used to look for in a partner was someone, as she put it, who would ‘fill up the self-confidence tank.’ What she meant was someone who was there for you, regardless of your foibles or imperfections and someone that would be there to support you no matter what. They boost how you feel about yourself. They see the good in us and also accept that we’re not perfect and we make mistakes. Sounds like a big ask when you say it like that doesn’t it?
The difficulty is that if we fundamentally don’t believe that we’re good enough; no matter what people say it doesn’t sink in far enough to make a real difference to our underlying self-esteem. Self-esteem is not something that others can give us. It’s something that we feel deeply about what and who we are. People with low self-esteem believe at the deepest level, that there is something fundamentally flawed about them. What I often hear are that people don’t feel good enough, qualified enough, experienced enough, capable enough. Much of the bread and butter client work is around redressing what people tell themselves on a regular basis; and the word enough often features!!
The underlying intention for me in my practice as a coach or a psychotherapist is to enable my clients to learn to be self-supporting and self-sufficient. Often the real work is about helping people to get a much stronger sense of themselves; who they are and what they are capable of. It’s not easy and it almost never involves quick fixes. We’re working to change deeply ingrained patterns and beliefs which takes tenacity and work. It’s like weeding. Unless we meticulously get to the root, dig it out and replace the weed with something more positive, the ingrained beliefs and patterns come back with a vengeance.
Changing what we say to ourselves is like planting a positive seed that we continue to tend and nurture it while it begins to grow and develop roots. We’ve got to make sure we notice and remove any of the negative, critical weeds that creep in, and make sure that we continue to say things that boost our self-esteem rather than undermine it.
One way to begin to change what we say to ourselves is to re-frame the unhelpful, unkind comments into something that’s more sustaining and positive.
So “I’m not good enough” might simply become “I AM good enough” or “I HAVE got the capability” or even “I’ve got this.”
“I’m rubbish at this” might become “I’m still learning how to master this, and that’s OK” OR “It’s tough, but I’ll learn and get better.”
Imagine how your self-esteem would develop if you could REALLY, truly, deeply believe that you are enough? I almost think that a universally helpful mantra for when we feel not good enough, would be to say over and over “I AM enough.”
We would probably never talk to someone we love in the critical, unkind way that we talk to ourselves. So why not give yourself a break, and think about filing your own tank up? You’ll need to find your own mantra, maybe “I AM enough” would be a good start. Whatever your re-framing mantra is, the challenge is to repeat it two or three times a day, for around 5 minutes. When you’re brushing your teeth; in the shower; washing up; waiting for kettle to boil; standing in a queue or waiting in traffic or even just before that big scary meeting! You don’t have to say it out loud – in your head is fine!!
What we’re aiming to do is to change some of those subconscious beliefs that you’re hanging onto; so even when you start to feel a wee bit better, it’s about keeping going and creating new, more helpful patterns of thinking. Stick with it be consistent. They say it takes about three weeks to create a new habit – so make your self-talk positive every day for at least three weeks. Notice the negative self-talk and for every one of those, replace it with another 10 of your positive reframe. If you’re prepared to stay with it, you will start to feel the difference!!
If any of this touches a nerve and you’re ready to do some of your own weeding, get in touch! I’d love to help you to find more helpful ways to speak to yourself so that you REALLY can begin to believe that you REALLY are good enough!! J
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