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How to Raise Your Self Esteem

If more people in the world liked and valued themselves sufficiently I don’t think we’d experience nearly as much hatred, violence and division. I think couples would be happier, relying less on the magical powers of each other to “fill the tanks.” I think we’d all be more balanced and present, without the need for so much “mindfulness” training. I think we’d all get to the end of our lives with a greater sense of meaning and fulfillment, having loved ourselves and ultimately each other more fully.

So, if you landed in a family which didn’t mirror you properly with wonder, acceptance and love, but instead either ignored, neglected or abused you, how do you develop self esteem? (Many people I’ve known think that if you weren’t on the “right line” at the “right time” you’re screwed)!

The contradicting good news is that self esteem is something that can be cultivated through practiced thought, action and attitude, rather than only possible through an ideal childhood. The wisest, most comprehensive article I’ve read about this issue was by Carthage Buckley, a performance coach and prolific writer whom I had the privilege of doing a podcast with last year about building a problem-solving mindset on my BlogTalk Radio show, The Couplespeak Relationship Forum.  I’ve attached his article about raising self esteem through 7 exercises. Read it. Now. You’ll be happy you did.

7 Simple exercises to raise your self-esteem

Giving Yourself Permission in 2018

Most of us are familiar with the “January Effect” – people armed with New Year’s resolutions to live cleaner: workout regularly, be more organized, eat more healthfully and lose weight, drink less, be more productive and waste less time, etc., etc. 

 Years ago when I belonged to Gold’s Gym we “regulars” would see swarms of well-intentioned people in January jamming up the machines, crowding the classes, full of optimism, only to almost entirely clear out by late February or March. The self-righteous eye rolls or chuckles among the “regulars” would be palpable. After observing it yearly I ultimately decided that this phenomenon might not be so much about laziness, lack of commitment or disorganization, but maybe more about a lack of permission – a lack of giving oneself permission to honor the need for down time, rest, hanging out, or sometimes people’s lack of permission to look at themselves with honesty about what’s really important to them. Had the resolutions to work out rigorously four times a week taken into account what was realistic in the context of people’s sleep habits, infrastructure to take that personal time, need for solitude or need for rest? Often not – coming to the gym frequently sounded good on paper, but had these people given themselves permission to look realistically at all these other factors that could undermine them? I think not.

I met with several couples in my practice after the holidays who talked with surprise and delight about having had a wonderful time with each other and with their kids during the holidays – for some, the first time in years! It wasn’t because they packed more activities in or were “good.” They didn’t go to every festival or capitalize on every possible day to ski or ice skate. They didn’t go to every party. They didn’t jump start their New Year’s resolutions. Instead they gave themselves permission to do less, to relax more, sleep more, hang out more, go offline, and not compete with their friends or neighbors to be the most social, or have the best holiday decorations, or the most elaborate rituals. They had given themselves permission to be honest with themselves about how much was enough, and how much might be too much. They tuned into themselves and their children rather than the hype around them, and it made all the difference in the world.

So, if as you read this you feel some apprehension about becoming a sloth if you practice tuning into your needs for rest and relaxation, take a deep breath and just try it for awhile. You may very well discover that when you legitimize downtime you won’t ultimately be less productive or social or happy. You may just discover a quieter, “slower” aspect of yourself, creating more peace of mind. You may even get to the gym with sufficient regularity after January!

“Cheap Forgiveness” Podcast Wednesday, 11/8/17 8:30 PM EST

In this 15 minute episode I’ll share my insights and experiences with the issue of cheap forgiveness – what it is, and how and when it may be adaptive as the best possible “solution” to emotional injury, vs. what the costs may be to the person bestowing it and to the relationship. I’ll give a mini “life lesson” on the larger issue of forgiveness and what the options may be when an offender isn’t repentant or available to a process of true repair around an emotional injury.

To join the episode live call 877-497-9046 to come on the air with your questions, comments or story.  If you can’t make the live podcast you can listen to the recording afterward anytime at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager  

However you tune in, don’t miss this important episode!

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade! – Or Apple Crisp……

 

(Well, the lying-down position of this image you may be getting tells it all). Sometimes, despite your best efforts and highest expectations things just don’t turn out the way you’d hoped they would. In this case, I (once again), unwittingly took the shot sideways in the middle of aiming, and couldn’t get it to stand up straight afterward on my computer. It came out right side up for my husband on his laptop. Who knows what you’ll get…                                                                    

(Am I the only one using an iPhone who does this with some frequency, or are there other directionally impaired picture-takers out there)???

The real subject of this post ironically, had to do with the the non-fit between the weather and the activity. Every Autumn I look so forward to cozy rituals with family and friends, like apple picking amidst the crisp air and gorgeous New England foliage. I DON’T look forward to roaming the orchards in humid 74 degrees with almost no foliage display in mid October. (Nor did my husband, wearing his lovely new flannel shirt!)

But here’s the point: Expectation, as per Buddhist teaching, can really set us up for problems. You want a rose, but get a marigold, then feel dejected, as though it wasn’t still a lovely flower! You want the whole New England leaf-peeping experience, then feel cheated when the temperature and foliage is more like an August day. Yet, you still get the apples and a day in the country with your loved one(s).  So, I recommend that you learn to go with the flow, whether it’s a sideways photo or an apple picking event, take it for what it’s worth, have a good laugh, and enjoy being alive! (As my sister Marge says, “It’s certainly better than the alternative.”)………..

 

Winter, (No Spring), Now SUMMER! Time to Practice the Fine Art of Reframing

So, here I am on our boat celebrating the end of Winter, a missing Spring, and now…. Summer! But wait – today we’re all hiding out indoors escaping the scorching 94 degree temps outside! This is a classic case of “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!” or “Be flexible! Regroup!”

When weather dishes out doozies like it has been here in New England, sometimes the best you can do is “reframe”:

On another rainy day in June: Great opportunity to do book work and seasonal clothing hauls.

– On another 50 degree day in June: Great time to do the mulching and other backbreaking yard work you’d never do in the heat. Also great time to do all the cooking and baking which calls to you.

– On a 94 degree Monday when you’re “off” work: Great time to write blog posts, post radio shows and catch up on emails, not to mention play your guitar and read a book before midnight. Who’d want to be indoors doing that when it’s glorious outside?

So, as the old adage goes, “When nature gives you lemons, make LOADS of lemonade!”

 

The Winter Blues: Make Peace with the Season or Be Miserable!

IMG_8362.JPG Susan at Lincoln Woods, NH 1:15:17 with friends

This past weekend it was a balmy 24 degrees for the high on most of Saturday and Sunday here in the Northeast. Many of you might grimace at this information, especially if you live in Maine or New Hampshire and routinely experience a six month winter. You’re even more likely to look at this photo of me on the Lincoln Woods trail, deep in the heart of the mountains, and think I’m crazy, right? What you may not realize is that, along with some good friends and my husband I was practicing the art of making peace with the cold, given the fact that we can’t change it and would certainly get very depressed hanging around inside all winter. (What you can’t see in this particular photo is the fact that all four of us had just driven two hours North to see the Ice Castles, basically, an ambitious bunch of ice towers near Loon Mountain – all freezing stuff)!

But, there’s method to the madness: Get out in nature after you’ve sufficiently bundled up, experience it’s beauty, yield to it, and you’ll be taking a natural anti-depressant! So, whatever feels most comfortable to you – downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, ice skating, or just plain trail walking with your dog, if you have one – any of these activities will help you not only get through the very long New England winter, but will give you exercise, social contact, a happy dog and communion with nature. All very good things….

Another Birthday!

Yesterday was my birthday, and once again I was astonished at how fast this past year went. Zip! It flew by! Again I’ve had the dreaded thought that my remaining birthdays may be limited, as I’m now officially tripping off the top of the”middle age” peak. Ugh! Not a good way to think about the passage of time. So, I’m on a mission to reframe aging, so I don’t spend the rest of my days playing “Beat the Clock.” (If you are gloriously young, you probably have no clue about that reference, as you wouldn’t have been born when that show was on TV. Well, hooray for you).

So far, I’ve decided that one clear antidote to aging with dread is to stop focusing on the outside of things and more on the inside – to not be seduced by appearances, but more cognizant of substance. That way, wrinkles and gravity’s effect on bodies, including my own, will be less central, (and horrifying!). So, who cares if your butt is two inches lower now than when you were 25? It’s the quality of your mind and heart that protrudes with significance!

One other antidote seems to be less focus on the endlessly undone things in life – the “bucket list” of amazing, challenging, creative, fun or obligatory things remaining untapped or unfinished, and more focus on one’s achievements. What accomplishments do you feel proud of? What will you be remembered for? What relationships and experiences have you had that you cherish right now? It’s a “glass half full” frame, much less melancholy, more grateful!

While I’m working on my list of antidotes to aging with dread, I did see one affirmation on a birthday card which says it all perfectly: “At this moment in time you are the youngest you will ever be for the rest of your life.”  Ah, youth……

Are You a Time Optimist?

My husband and I still have a ridiculously predictable ritual: We agree to do some errands together on a weekend, often involving returning or searching for an item in a Marshalls or T.J.Maxx store. I tell him I’ll be ten minutes, he says “ok,” and half an hour later I’m still in the dressing room frantically trying on deals of a lifetime while he’s outside, aggravated, saying he should have brought a book! As someone who is generally considerate of other people’s feelings, I apologize and we agree not to shop together in the future, because I lose all sense of time, and he hates to wait. He forgives me, and all is well, until…..the next time.

Here’s another similar scenario: I have a family member (whom I won’t mention by name), who is joyful, highly creative and full of intense energy. He does everything with tremendous passion. Unfortunately, that usually means fixing or building something, or solving some complex problem “in no time” while he makes his wife wait for him to go somewhere or do something else. He’s a loving, thoughtful husband who somehow lives in the doghouse much of the time in his marriage. Luckily, he too has a forgiving spouse who adores him.

Are we folks who chronically underestimate the time it takes to do things really just inconsiderate of others? Do we all have ADHD? Are we disorganized or are we just “time optimists”? I like to think that it’s the latter category – chronically underestimating the time it takes to do things. When our son was about eight years old he remarked one day that I seemed to always be “missing ten minutes!” How astute! – yet it took me another nine years to realize that I could leave for work ten minutes earlier and not be crunched for time – that inevitably, en route to work I’d get caught behind a school bus or an old lady driving fifteen miles an hour, no matter how well intentioned I was about not being late for clients.

These days, I still try to add at least ten minutes onto the estimate for the time needed for just about everything in life. I’ve relinquished myself to the “higher power” of Geologic Time – that no matter how fast I can do things, the world still moves very, very slowly. I can tell you that this practice lowers your stress level, makes everyone around you feel much less irritated, helps you enjoy the scenery behind old ladies and school buses, and can even improve your marriage! The only thing that I can’t vouch for is what happens when you hit a sale in your favorite store….

Retail Meditation

I’ve often teased my husband about how he goes into his “happy place” when he’s fishing, especially from his kayak. He slips into a total trance, paddling softly, examining the shallow water for fish and lures other people have left behind. I could be drowning in the next kayak, or there could be a nuclear holocaust and he’d be completely immersed in a Zen meditative state. (I think he’s in good company with half the planet in this way.)

Well, I’ve noticed something similar about myself and what I think may be true for millions of women: when I’m on a shopping mission searching for a specific item, I’m either in a store or online, totally immersed in the experience, focused and calm, in much the same way as when I play my guitar, maneuver my kayak, ski or garden. I used to think of the shopping as being too material, but I now realize that it’s a form of meditation – retail meditation! Whenever I’m in a store I observe something similar seeming to happen for mostly other women – they sail around with their carts, looking for this or that, with contented smiles on their faces, calm and centered, in what looks like a perfect state of “flow.” I don’t know if they’re on drugs or engaged in compulsive shopping, but they sure seem to be present in the moment!

So, if you engage in the same behavior, and you’re not overspending or avoiding some other responsibility, try not to let your inner critic define the experience as shallow. You may instead be honoring a biologically wired “gathering” instinct and doing a moving meditation. If it centers and calms you, it may be just what you need at that time!

Susan Lager

PS. If you need more help with silencing your judgmental inner critic, feel free to call me for an appointment: 603-431-7131

Self Criticism: Silence It With the Ultimate Nuclear Weapon

self criticsm photo: self DSCN0769zcopycopy.jpg

Many of us become our own worst enemies by putting ourselves down and focusing on our weaknesses or negative qualities. If you are prone to this, it’s important to know that a bit of self critical thinking can become motivation for positive change and growth, but when you go overboard with it, feeling worthless, incapable of effective action, etc., it prevents you from taking healthy risks because it robs you of confidence in your own capabilities. It raises anxiety and stress, and can lead to depression.

Most of us already know about the importance of learning to accept our mistakes as part of learning, and being kinder and softer to ourselves in general. We’ve also heard a lot about looking for solutions to problems instead of berating ourselves about them. But here is the ultimate nuclear weapon to blast away self criticism: The Howitzer Mantras.

Because self critical talking and behavior is driven by habit and reflex, its important to find words or phrases that are designed to hit the critic like a cannon blast. When you hear your internal critic saying nasty, derogatory things about yourself use a mantra that helps you feel angry and outraged, like “Screw you!,” “Stop this crap!” “Shut up!” “Get off my back!” Use the anger and indignation as a productive way to drown out the critic. Yell out loud if you can, but most importantly, mentally shout the mantras at the critic.

If using the mantras alone is insufficient, take a stronger measure by putting a rubber band around your wrist and snap it while subvocalizing your mantra. By doing this you’re emphasizing your stop commands and making thought interruption more likely. The sharp, stinging sensation breaks the chain of negative thoughts and acts as a punisher so that the critic is less likely to attack in the near future.

Try this method as a routine way to silence your damning critic and you’ll be amazed at the results!

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Susan Lager

I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with skills and tools to transform your life.

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