Role-play – with yourself
Set up a chair next to your couch, like you’re sitting in Freud’s living room. Lie down on the couch and tell the chair everything that’s been bothering you. Pressures at work, difficult relationship with your in-laws, lack of romance between you and your partner, your concerns that your child’s part-time job flipping burgers is his “calling,” etc. When you’re done venting, get off the couch and sit on the chair. Morph into Freud, Dr. Phil, or any therapist in general, and counsel yourself like you would a good friend. Here’s an excerpt from my “session”:
The pressure that you feel – to do all the things that you say you want to do – are these based on your own expectations, or you family’s? Or society’s? Do you want to do all these things because you really want to, or because you feel you have to? Whose approval are you trying to attain? And most importantly, why does it matter what others think of you? Appearances can be deceiving, my dear. People like to make others think that their life is amazing, but I bet many of them wish that their life was totally different.
Take note of all the times you discount yourself
We’re never more cruel, insulting, and hostile with anyone else than we are with ourselves. A much wiser friend suggested that I spend an entire day writing down how many times I insult myself or sell myself short – even if I say it in a joking manner.
Did you notice what I did right there? I insulted myself by calling my friend wiser, without even realizing it. See how these slights slip into my head like a French fries into my mouth. There! I just did it again!
The point of this exercise is twofold: It forces me to be more self-aware, and helps me realize that I really, really need to treat myself with more love and respect.
Try it out. Every time you think, say, or do something that discounts you, write it down. You’ll be surprised how many times in a day you treat yourself like crap. This type of introspection is like using those Bioré® pore strips – you’ll be pulling out a lot of gunk from the pores of your self-image. (Oh God, I can’t believe I wrote that…THERE! Did it again!).
Be in the now
I know when I am not “in the now,” particularly while I’m driving. I’ll either find myself braking at the last second to avoid rear-ending someone because my mind was elsewhere, or I’ll end up at home, safe and sound, wondering how the heck I got there because I don’t remember the entire drive.
Lao Tzu didn’t just have an awesome name – he had a great saying:
If you’re depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.
So how does living in the now improve your self-esteem? You won’t be beating yourself over the head with that ugly stick we call “regret,” or berating yourself for all the things you haven’t yet accomplished. There is never anything to worry about when you’re focused on the present. All the horrible things we imagine could happen either haven’t manifested beyond the dark recesses of our mind, or never end up happening anyway. Just let it all go.