Turn your negative thoughts into rational responses
Now you have your set of values and strengths to start believing in yourself. But our past experiences, even those we no longer remember, continue to affect our lives in the form of an “inner voice.”
In people with healthy self-esteem, this voice is usually kind and comforting. But in those with low self-esteem, it becomes the worst critic, punishing them for their mistakes and belittling their achievements. This internal dialogue causes anxiety and locks us in our circle of comfort, so it is key that you are also able to overcome it.
The problem is that that inner voice is irrational. It tends to interpret any situation in the worst possible way, even when there is no objective evidence to reach his conclusion.
Since these irrational thoughts do not need any real basis to exist, you must put them to the test so that your reason defeats them. Is it a real threat or is it completely unfounded?
The process to defeat them is as follows:
Identify in which situations they appear and what they tell you. Your negative thoughts are usually always the same, so how do they make you interpret situations? What emotions do they provoke in you?
The better you understand the emotions that cause you, the less power they will have over you. One study found that when participants identified and named their emotions aloud, the frontal cortex did not have as high a limbic response to them. In other words, acknowledging the emotion you are feeling reduces its impact on you.
Finally, rationalize your irrational negative thoughts by answering these three questions:
Are you sure that’s going to happen?
If it really happens, how will you be in a year?
What would you say to a friend who was telling you that?
Get in the habit of identifying and questioning your negative thoughts and you will begin to lessen their effect on you.
Separate yourself from your fears with acceptance and commitment
It is possible that after identifying and rationalizing your negative thoughts you still have some fears so deep that they continue to block you.Don’t worry, because that’s why we have the acceptance and commitment strategy, a method that has shown enormous scientific efficacy in studies to overcome those beliefs.
Most people, when they’re worried about something, try not to think about it. We try to block out our thoughts or distract ourselves by thinking about something else. But not only has it been proven that it doesn’t work, but it also causes your fears to come back with more force. Instead of trying to ignore them, you have to learn to disengage from them.
The real reason why your thoughts block you is because you believe that you are them. You give them all the credibility in the world. But, as the philosopher Eckhart Tolle argues, you are not what you think.
Isn’t it true that when those thoughts assail you, you are aware of listening to them? That shows that you are not really them: you are their observer. Our mind loves to bombard us with negative thoughts and your job is to stop identifying with them. Then they will lose all their power.
To achieve this, practice this process every time you feel that fear invades you:
Don’t block the thought that causes that fear. Give it space and feel.
Get familiar with your fear. Give it a name and imagine what its physical form would be like.
Use a little mindfulness to get it flowing and going. You can imagine a spring of water that drags some leaves. Visualize your fear on top of a leaf while the river drags it away and slowly disappears.
Don’t try to block out your fears. Give them space and familiarize yourself with them until you see them as your typical heavy travel companion. So they will disappear.
Leaning on your values, identifying your strengths and rationalizing and disassociating yourself from your negative thoughts is necessary, but to achieve healthy self-esteem you are missing something essential.You need to learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes.
Self-compassion consists of treating yourself with the same empathy with which you would treat that friend of yours. It means giving yourself support and being understanding with yourself, instead of criticizing and judging you. It involves learning to calm down and comfort yourself to try again, instead of punishing every time you make a mistake.
There are many ways to develop self-compassion, but the easiest of all is to talk to yourself like you would to a friend who is having a hard time. Something like “I’m suffering because I feel like I’ve lost control of my life, it’s a difficult time but I’m going to fight to get out of this” can be a good start. In this way you will begin to see your problems as something you are experiencing, and not as something that defines you.
Every time you find yourself punishing yourself, replace your critical voice with this compassionate voice. Your self-esteem will thank you.
Boost your confidence with power poses
Although almost everyone believes that self-esteem is born in our mind, the most recent studies by researchers indicate that it also has part of its origin in the body.Until recently it was believed that the communication path between mind and body only had one direction. But the reality is that your non-verbal language also influences your mood. This is a fish that bites its tail: when you feel defeated you express it by shrinking your body, which makes you feel even more depressed.
But it’s possible to break that vicious cycle, and it’s as simple as using an upright and expansive stance when you’re down. These types of poses (head raised, shoulders back, and hands resting on hips) are called power poses, and it has been proven that holding them for just two minutes is already enough to feel more confident and sure of yourself.Not only that, but they are able to increase testosterone levels by 20% and decrease those of the stress and anxiety hormone, cortisol, by 25%.
You can start by holding a power pose for a couple of minutes every morning, and also every time you have to face a challenge. You will feel more confident.
Multiply your self-esteem with exercise
Your body has something else to say about your confidence, and that is that this may be the fastest way to increase it. The results of the largest study carried out on exercise and self-esteem showed that, as long as it is of medium intensity, doing sports increases self-esteem in the short term.
Thirty minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a day is enough to reduce cortisol levels and increase your well-being thanks to the release of beta-endorphins. In addition to the fact that exercise will help you feel better about your body, it is also capable of increasing mental capacity by increasing blood flow to the brain, reducing anxiety and even increasing your self-control.
Don’t forget to include a daily 30-minute exercise routine. You will start noticing the results immediately.
Think less about yourself and more about others
The spiral of low self-esteem is a vicious circle. In our eagerness to feel better, we began to constantly check our state of mind. How I feel today? Does this tightness in my stomach mean I’m going to sink again? That only creates more anxiety.To feel better you should do the opposite: stop thinking so much about yourself and focus your attention outward.
Thinking only about your problems does you no favors. Helping people has beneficial effects on our self-esteem for two reasons:
The first is because it helps you distract attention from yourself.
The second is because it appears to stimulate certain biological systems that reduce anxiety-related emotional responses. It is as if we were programmed to help our fellow men.
Start doing more things for others because, deep down, you will also be doing it for yourself.
Enjoying a healthy self-esteem requires effort and perseverance
We all experience ups and downs in our self-esteem. The problem is when our state of mind becomes a permanent curse that makes us suffer. To overcome it, it is essential to know yourself in depth, but above all, take pressure off yourself, be guided by values, accept yourself and learn to forgive to yourself.
We all have something unique and valuable to contribute, even if it is only our own efforts. Because no one knows what wonderful work it may end up becoming, so don’t deny us your gifts by being trapped in your low self-esteem.