I think they’re on the wrong track.
While having a healthy amount of self-esteem can be helpful, there are aspects of self-esteem – and the pursuit of self-esteem – that can be harmful and hinder your ability to bounce back in life.
Researchers call this “contingent self-esteem.”
When we base our worth on something in particular such as physical appearance, work/school achievements or sports, the way we feel about ourselves is contingent on how we do in those endeavors.
If we do well, we feel great! But if we fail – and we’re human so there is no doubt we will fail sometimes – we feel awful about ourselves.
So, what are our options?
We can work so hard in our chosen contingency that we won’t fail and feel bad. (But we’ve already discussed the nature of humanness and failure above.)
Or we can avoid putting ourselves at risk of failure by not trying something new or self-sabotaging so we can say things like, “It’s not that I failed – it’s just that I didn’t really try very hard.”
People who come to me seeking more self-esteem are inevitably walking this tightrope of fear-of-failure/success-sabotaging and assuming that what they need is more self-esteem to help them hold their balance.
Not so much.
1. Take on an “others first” attitude.
Self-esteem, of course, is very “me” centered.
It turns out the best way to feel good about ourselves is to be more “you” centered.
Goals directed at being constructive, supportive, and responsive to others lead to feelings of connectedness, closeness to others, social support, and trust, as well as reduced feelings of conflict, loneliness, fear, and confusion. Compassionate goals appear to engender a sense of worth and connectedness without the devastating drops that come after feedback suggestive of failure. ~ Scientific American Mind magazine
Instead of working until midnight at your job to help yourself be successful so you’ll feel good, why not work hard to help the other members …
Now, before you roll your eyes, let’s look at why this is important.
Taking a deep breath does a couple of very vital things for you.
- It stimulates your vagus nerve by expanding your diaphragm. The vagus nerve is that long, winding nerve that starts in your brain and winds down among just about every organ in your body. When it gets triggered, it prompts your parasympathetic nervous system to kick in, calming your body.
It’s pretty hard to feel anxious and upset when your body is calm.
- Your deep breath can serve as a reminder for you to slow down and return to the present moment rather than fretting about the past or worrying about the future.
I giggle a bit at us self-help providers because we sometimes advise people to see the forest of their problem rather than the individual trees.
But occasionally all that’s really needed to get you back on your path is to knock a few of those trees down!
Now that you’ve taken a deep breath (see #1,) take a step back from the situation and do some quick problem-solving: What is the real problem? Is there any action you can take now that will help? What have you done in the past that has worked for you?
If there is something you can do, then do it!
If not, see #3.
As much as I teased about people like me giving this exact advice, it really is helpful if there is no action that can be taken.
Again, engage in #1.
Realize that you’ve been in other situations throughout your life where you’ve felt stressed and like you really need to bounce back right now AND you’ve made it through those times. They weren’t pleasant, but they do pass.
Someone sent me the link to this cool little article on abcnews.com: …
Some of the best and brightest researchers who study how to increase your well-being have loads of free, practical, helpful information just waiting for you out there in cyberspace.
To make things a little easier for you, I’ve rounded up a few of my favorites. These are people and research that have rocked my world and I know they’ll do the same for you. Look for the free stuff!
Must see: Brene Brown’s free first Ted Talk, The Power of Vulnerability (20 minutes.)
Also good: Her free second Ted Talk, Listening to Shame (20 minutes.)
Excellent free article: 4 (Totally Surprising) Life Lessons We All Need to Learn
Must read free article: Why Self-Compassion Trumps Self-Esteem
Must read book: Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself
Wonderful, free guided meditations about self-compassion: Self-compassion.org website
Science-y, but really informative free article that includes video clips: Are You Getting Enough Positivity In Your Diet?
Must read free article: 9 Things Successful People Do Differently
Must read free article: Is It Possible to Become Lastingly Happier?
Also good: …
1. Realize that change is always going to be in your life. Expect it.
“I always thought things would calm down and get easier. I’m beginning to think that’s not going to happen.” Phoebe Howard, age 99.
2. Be nice to yourself. Treat yourself as you would your best friend. Read Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.
3. Practice mindfulness by noticing your thoughts and feelings, but have no judgment about them. Try this 12-minute ‘taster’ by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
4. Resistance is like a Chinese Finger Trap. The more you struggle, the tighter you’re held in the trap.
5. Be flexible and open in your way of thinking. It will allow you to problem-solve more effectively and accept your reality more easily. Read Roger von Oech’s A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative
6. Find your taproot.
7. See if there is a gift hidden within your troubles. The sand that irritates the oyster eventually becomes a pearl.
8. Develop post-traumatic growth. The basics are being optimistic and framing your struggles as meaningful (finding the gifts and opportunities in them.)
9. Gain perspective: See how many different angles you can view the same problem from.
10. More perspective: Remember that you’ve made it through tough times before. And you’re still here to talk about it.
“I like to see a cloud in the blue sky. How else can you appreciate the blue without a cloud in it?” - my 100-year-old grandmother, Mary Gustason
11. Think about kaleidoscopes. The pattern is beautiful, but when it gets shaken up, a wonderful new pattern can emerge.
12. Take a break. Really. It’s okay.
13. Find something that makes you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.
14. Remember that your thoughts aren’t always true.
15. Remember that it’s okay to have fun, smile, and laugh sometimes even when you …
Perhaps I come by it honestly as my parents often referred to me as “Little Chief Thundercloud” when I was a small child.
Nonetheless, I enjoy a bit of happiness as much as the next person. But the aspect of happiness that has me particularly grumpy is the popular social notion that one should always be happy.
If you don’t believe me, visit one of the few remaining bookstores in your area and go to the Self-Help section. Your neck will get a kink in it as you keep your head cocked to one side to read the endless list of ways to be happy, stay happy, reasons why you’re not happy, why you suck because you can’t maintain happiness, etc.
Searching for the word “happy” in the book section on Amazon is frightening. (Not to worry, I did it for you.) My search returned 63,499 results.
Of course, we need to take this with a fairly good-sized grain of salt since the top book right now is, Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander, which is an autobiography by someone from the A&E series, Duck Dynasty. Be sure to pick up your copy today.
Still, in the top 25 books are titles such as:
Actually, that last one might be worth taking a look at . . .
Overall, though, you receive my point: You can and should be happy once and for all, happy now, and instantly happy. As the duck man might say, “Happy, happy, happy. What a quack.”
Imagine my relief, then, when I spied this title: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking…
Break those resolutions.
They’re not doing you any good.
Resolutions inevitably set you up for failure.
Think about it: Resolutions are usually created around something you have difficulty with, anyway, like exercising more or eating less. When you create a resolution, you take something that is already hard for you to do and pile on more expectations and more weight (so to speak) on the outcome.
Now what happens if you’re not able to keep your resolution?
You really suck.
In actuality, you don’t suck at all, but resolutions can make you think you do.
Guess what percentage of people who make resolutions actually achieve them?
Go ahead and guess. I’ll wait.
Ready for the answer?
8%. That’s eight percent, not a typo that’s supposed to be 80%. That means 92% fail at completely accomplishing our resolutions.
If you absolutely, positively have to create a resolution, at least do it in the best way possible.
Did you know that the origin of the word resolution is this?
Early 15c., “a breaking into parts,” from L. resolutionem (nom. resolutio) “process of reducing things into simpler forms”.
So, resolution actually means to break things down to make them simpler. The definition of resolution meaning “to hold firmly” didn’t appear until more than a hundred years later.
Rather than saying, “My resolution is to go to the gym more,” create something more specific, measurable, and smaller. Say, “I would like to go to the gym two times per week for the first 3 months and then bump it up to three times per week for the next 3 months.”
Instead of saying, “I’m going to cut out all carbs from my diet,” say, “I’m going to eat only 45 grams of carbs three days per week for one month.”
Reduce your breaking into parts to its simplest form.
Instead of a New Year’s resolution, why not set an intention for the new year?
An intention is about having an aim, a direction, a purpose – it’s not about a fixed goal. It can serve the same function as a goal, that is it can get you moving in a new direction.
But holding an intention is not as do-or-die …
Maybe you’re facing a big stressor or perhaps it’s something so small that it usually wouldn’t bother you, but in either case, somehow you just aren’t as resilient as you have been in the past.
The tendency is to think, “I must be a real wimp; I usually am fine with this type of stress.”
You might be a wimp (although I seriously doubt it) or there might be something else going on.
We humans have a penchant for glossing over the most obvious things, so here’s a reminder to ask yourself about these three commonly overlooked factors that make it difficult to bounce back:
1. Am I tired?
Being tired saps us of any reserves we might have in the resiliency arena so it makes sense that bouncing back wouldn’t come as easily.
If being tired is due to lack of sleep, our ability to problem-solve and manage even the smallest issues may be severely challenged. We need our REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep – the deepest stage of sleep – in order to be able to process memories and emotions most efficiently.
If lack of sleep is a problem for you, check out this helpful article from the American Psychological Association.
Tired from physical exertion? Make sure to get enough rest to get your wits about you again before making any decisions or trying to accurately gauge your ability to bounce back.
2. Am I sick?
Obviously, being seriously ill is going to make it difficult for you to have any energy at all to manage your emotions.
But did you know that even something as simple as the common cold can affect your bounce-back-ability?
Think about it: not only are you tired (see #1 above) from being sick, every bit of extra energy in your body – and most of the regular-strength energy – is going toward fighting off the invasive critters that are making you sick.
That doesn’t leave a lot left over for emotional resilience.
Take care of your body to help restore your energy and bounciness.
Crises. Stressful events. Problems.
Sometimes they’re small like running out the door late for work only to find that the cat threw up on your shoe and you have to go back inside to change.
Sometimes they’re big like financial problems, illness, or loss of a loved one.
Whatever the situation, there are four words that can help you make it through better than any self-help book.
Before I tell you these four words, I want you to promise me that you’ll keep reading this entire post. Because I can pretty much guarantee that when you read the words you’ll roll your eyes and think, “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before.”
These four words have magic when strung together and there is much, much more that we need to think about when we hear or remember them rather than just letting them go by.
Here are the four words:
This, too, shall pass.
Wait! Don’t go anywhere. Keep reading.
Most people when they hear this familiar phrase immediately dismiss it, thinking, “I know that, but what do I do now to manage my stress?”
What you do now is gain perspective.
Example 1: The cat threw up on your shoe and you are going to be later than you thought to work.
So what? You’ve been late before and the sky didn’t fall in. Allow yourself to learn from past experience that you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.
The moment passes.
Example 2: You’re deep in debt and bill collectors are calling to harass you.
This is not a “so what?” experience. This is a stomach-churning-teeth-grinding-waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night experience. How does ‘This, too, shall pass’ fit here?
In a couple of different ways.
One is that this moment will pass. Or perhaps I should say, you can allow the moment to pass. And I mean the moment.
Those stomach-churning-teeth-grinding-waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night moments eventually pass. Especially if you realize that grinding your teeth and worrying in the middle of the night doesn’t really solve any problems. It just makes you tired the next day.
You know these moments pass because you’ve had them …