Self Esteem 101
HEY! You are Awesome!! Acknowledgement, appreciation and being in a place of non-judgement are all important traits to have when you really want to build your self-esteem.
Self esteem is often confused with acknowledging your accomplishments only. The characteristics and energy of self-esteem and self confidence are housed in the third chakra or solar plexus of the body. This is the chakra that works with the third eye chakra for mental thought processing and learning. Since this chakra is well suited for learning, we can add certain mind exercises to our fitness routines to develop a really balanced energy in this area.
Self esteem is the ability to look at yourself in a mirror and appreciate what is there, all of it, who you have become as a result of your experiences and how well you practice non-judgement.
Loving and accepting yourself where you are may be harder for a lot of people than you think as many are prone to a certain amount of self criticism. I remember telling a client (Patty) what a great job she did on her workout. The only response she had was to enumerate all the things she had done wrong; her form was off, she couldn’t keep up, she felt weak and on and on. I stopped her mid-way through her rant and asked her if she had anything positive to say about her experience, she said “I love feeling physically active again.” I said “And who’s idea was it to hire me and get started?” She smiled and said “Me..” I said “Exactly!!! Give yourself some credit here you are doing a great job of taking care of yourself. Don’t undermine your experience with a lot of negativity, just appreciate what you were able to accomplish and understand that you are so much more than your workout.” Patty continued her workouts with a new focus and was only too happy to just be physically active again.
Self esteem may take a hit if we get caught in the trap of comparisons. Very often we are compared to our mothers, fathers, co-workers, colleagues or associates and what they were able to accomplish in their lives. They did it, so why didn’t we? Quit the comparisons and focus on what you have accomplished. People make different choices for different reasons some are good for self esteem and confidence some are not. Sacrificing your passion or talent for other people, career opportunities or money may undermine your self esteem. Ask yourself if you feel your choices eat away at your self-esteem? Checking in with ourselves can clarify how and what we are really feeling about our choices.
A major problem for self esteem is when we pay too much attention to our physical image. I had first hand direct experience with this issue. I worked as an image consultant and wardrobe stylist in television for 12 years. I loved it and enjoyed production but it made me sad to see a big time executive producer walk up to the talent I was working with, pat her hips and say “Just lose another 10 pounds and you’re there”. It was a mortifying moment (which the talent handled beautifully by the way) that I will never forget. Yes the camera makes people look a little wider but this woman was in great shape, she was one of the top professionals in her field and already had the respect of her crew and her audience. What she also had was great self-esteem to be able to brush that moment off and do her job perfectly. If we get too caught up in what we look like we may miss that moment, that opportunity to experience sheer appreciation. Appreciation, joy, spontaneity and love are all extremely attractive to anyone whether you like how you look or not.
Our self confidence may also suffer from goal anxiety. Many choose goals that are not realistic, setting the bar way too high. There are two camps here, some figure that if they don’t get their actual goal they may get something close to it which will make them happy anyway. The other outcome may be disillusionment if they didn’t attain that high goal. What we focus on in the fitness industry is to set goals that are more realistic with measurable results. Saying you are going to begin piano lessons every Thursday afternoon at 3 o’clock for 4 months at the Learning Center, is better than saying you want to learn how to play piano.
Knowing who you are, what your reactions will be and how you can function happily in your life is the key to deep self appreciation. I have three exercises that can help you identify those things if you haven’t already.
Take pictures of yourself or paint or draw yourself, even if you are not creative.
This was an eye-opening experience even for me (I was an artist before I did anything) and I like to keep my “hand in practice” with drawing from life, or nudes. When I draw someone I usually and literally put that person on a pedestal. I try to see them as objectively and benevolently as God would see them, just perfect as they are. Which ironically is completely different from the two alternate industries I’ve worked in (both television and fitness tend to focus on what you look like rather than the person you can present yourself as).
Make your focus entirely without judgement with the exception of discerning angles, shapes, shadows, body flow, what colors to use etc. Drawing and seeing yourself as a model, there for you to practice your craft and interpret as well as you can, takes the edge off of what you look like naked. The practice is purely observation and breaks the otherwise restrictive and negative pattern of seeing yourself with a critical eye.
2. Create lists of your positive and negative attributes..
Try to create lists of qualities you like or someone you know has mentioned they liked about you. There are days when you are just being you and yet it’s a fantastic revelation to hear someone else thinks you are unique and special in a good way. Then be objective and list those things you know aren’t necessarily positive but describes you perfectly like:
I don’t take “no” for an answer
I rarely ask for what I really want
I avoid communication when it’s uncomfortable for me.
This is a practice of accepting you where you are and continuing to love yourselfanyway.
3. Create lists of things you can do or that can teach you more about who you are. And then do them!
This can be a great self-esteem booster. You may want to consider trying a new hobby, take a writing course, go sky-diving or learn a different language. Learning new things or experiencing different things is not only fun but allows you to experience your reactions to them. I know some people who have always wanted to take ball-room dancing and finally at 44 years old they’ve discovered the joy of a different kind of movement in those ballroom dancing classes.
In any case honoring where you are will help you feel and experience more self-esteem. Be kind to yourself, if you are learning something new try to not to compare yourself to someone else’s accomplishments. And even if you don’t have a creative bone in your body, stop and try to draw a simple sketch of your body. Accept every part of who you are the good, bad and indifferent. All of these exercises will bring you closer to your real Self and thereby strengthen your self-esteem and confidence.
If you are able to try one or some of these exercises let me know what you experience!
I’d love to hear your story!