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5 Steps to Laying the Foundation of Self-Esteem

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Bron and I are having a BIG week.  Squeezed into an already full week of client workshops, coaching sessions, assessment days and the general demands of everyday life, we are also re-launching our website (heartfelt thanks to Alex and Paul from The Vision Board) and leading a webinar in partnership with the LA-based Global Labb.

It’s an exceptionally exciting time…a gateway that symbolizes the culmination of years of dreaming and hard work, but also the start and promise of an entirely new chapter in our lives and partnership together.  Our work together is truly beautiful: we’re free agents transforming the self-worth and self-esteem of the world.  The privilege of this work never ceases to amaze me: we meet and work with unique and exceptional clients.  We share such intimate spaces of transformation with them and get to see the very essence of people.  We are constantly learning about ourselves and the world around us, and soon enough with the new components of our site to come, we’ll be able to connect with even more people in virtual workshops, webinars and our blog.  The community is growing!

In the great petri dish of life weeks like these, when the intensity and stakes are high, can be a fertile breeding grounds for any number of insecurities.  But if you manage to catch yourself and press pause for a millisecond, these intense times are also a great opportunity to check in with yourself and learn.  Bringing a measure of awareness and consciousness to how you respond to situations lays an amazing foundation to learning about yourself – watching what you’re doing so that if the results work for you, you can repeat it, or it they don’t, you know what to watch out for next time.

Over time, you’ll find your own formula for bringing yourself back into balance, but if you haven’t found yours yet, here are some of the techniques we use on ourselves when we feel like we’re heading for a spin.

Test your ASSUMPTIONS

  • In the heat of the moment, you’ll probably find about a million thoughts a minute trying to fight their way to the surface – and most of them are, well…utter garbage.  If your thoughts are anything like mine in these less than graceful times, then they’re normally trying to scan every bit of data I have to find out why I’m in the situation I’m in, and how I get out of it…fast. Our brains are wired to make meaning, so when we don’t have all the facts we simply fill in the blanks and make assumptions about what’s going on, what people are thinking, why others reacted why they did and so on.  The important thing here is to catch the most pervasive thoughts and fact-check them. When you have a thought about yourself, another or a situation, stop and ask yourself, ‘is that REALLY 100% true?’  Then ask yourself, how you know that to be true.  The key is that you’re looking for evidence…absolute facts and data to anchor your thoughts against, and bring them back to reality.  Most of the time when I do this, I find two things happen:
  • I find that my answer is, ‘I don’t know if that’s 100% true’ at which point I realize I’m making an assumption and either recognize that I don’t need to pursue that line of thinking, or if its really bugging me, I can choose to get the facts so I know for sure.
  • Or I find that my thought is not 100% true because the evidence – either from my past performance, experiences, or from current data -  tells me so.

Testing your assumptions is a great way to stop the internal fire and conflict almost as soon as it starts, and the more practiced you get at this, the easier it will be to bring yourself back to balance really quickly.

Remember your BRICKWALL

When you’re stuck or in a spin, it’s easy to become self-critical. Negative self-talk isn’t helpful and it isn’t going to get you back on track to do what you need to in the midst of pressured circumstances.  Silence the self-critic by reminding yourself that YOU ARE ENOUGH…you don’t need to be more of anything.  Celia Coburn a pioneer in the education and practices of self-esteem, and a wonderful mentor and teacher to both Bronwen and I, shared a great tool with us that helps to embellish this feeling of being enough.  It involves drawing a wall of bricks where each brick is an acknowledgement of an area of competence or a personal attribute or skill.  By building this wall up brick by brick with the things we are good at, we not only remind ourselves how much we have to work with when we appreciate and value who and what we are, but we also shift the brain out of its hijacked state of flight-fight-freeze and are able to open up new avenues of thought and possibility to rationally think our way to solutions.

Practice ACCEPTANCE

Acceptance is always the first step to creating positive change.  Until we are able to fully accept the facts and reality of what is, it is impossible to take any steps to resolve it.  Acceptance doesn’t have to mean that you like the situation or know how to resolve it, you simply need to be able to accept it warts and all.  I often find that in order to fully accept something, I first have to give myself permission to think what I think, feel what I feel and be in the situation I’m in before I’m ready to accept it.  Taking myself out of a place of self-judgement and telling myself it’s ok to be experiencing what I am, makes it easier to confront any contradictions that might stop me from accepting reality as it is.

Take personal RESPONSIBILITY

Personal responsibility reminds us that we’re the authors of our choices and therefore, our lives.  Once we have accepted the reality of what is, and know what we’re dealing with, the next step is to ask, ‘so what am I going to do about it? What is directly in my control to influence? What has my role been in getting to this point?’  Being able to answer these questions reinforces, that no matter the situation, you ALWAYS have a choice as to how you respond, and this is empowering…it places our life back in our hands rather than the hands of others.

Take ASSERTIVE ACTION

The final and most critical step is all about activation – committing yourself to a new course of action to create a different reality.  It’s about asking yourself, ‘so what am I going to do differently? Where am I going to show up differently?  Where am I going to make assertive requests in my life?’  Being assertive means being authentic in your dealings with yourself and others: refusing to minimize who or what you value and standing up for yourself and your ideas in appropriate ways.  Be careful not to confuse assertion with aggression.  Being assertive means that your underlying intention and belief is that your rights are equal to and matter just as much as others’ rights do, and as a result you seek a genuine win: win.  By contrast, if you value your rights more than others’ and believe that success means that you win and they loose, then you’ve moved into aggression.  Assertion gives us a tool and a skill where all parties can emerge with their respect, integrity and esteem intact.

The thing about self-esteem is that once the foundation is in place, you never have to sink below it – you always have a base and grounding to return to. Living with self-esteem is a daily practice of living as truthfully as you can…sifting through and learning to distill the exquisite reality of life from the foggy illusions that can sometimes cloud it and give us an excuse to get in our own way.
 
We’d love to hear what practices and rituals help to bring you back into balance.  Enjoy the new site.  We hope you visit often, share your thoughts and comments and SHINE as bright as you can.

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ShineGen Inc is an independent, creatively-driven coaching practice and consultancy run by innovators who build strong and meaningful relationships with good companies and people.

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