Welcome back to our self-esteem series. If this is your first time accessing the blog, you may find it helpful to read the first post in this series to familiarize yourself with the topics that will be discussed in this post as well as in future posts. In the first installment, I talked about six different steps that you can take to help foster a relationship with yourself that is characterized by its level of helpfulness. In this post, I will be discussing the first step that I believe to be crucial in self-esteem work: cultivating awareness. To clarify, the awareness that I will be referencing is not necessarily about how well aware you are of your perceived flaws or shortcomings. It’s more about focusing your energy on the different facets of self-esteem: how it has developed, what maintains it, and how it impacts you. It is my hope that by cultivating this type of conscious, non-judgmental awareness that you will feel better prepared to move along this self-esteem journey.
The first aspect of cultivating awareness in the context of self-esteem focuses on awareness of how you got here. What experiences have you had that have shaped your view of yourself? These can (and probably will) be both positive and negative, based on what you choose to focus on. Maybe you experienced bullying in school growing up. Maybe you received praise from your parents regarding grades. Whatever these experiences are, it is helpful to look at them in a non-judgmental way so that you can use them to understand just how your self-esteem has developed. When I say “non-judgmental,” I mean that you should be attempting to evaluate these experiences in a way that does not lead to conclusions about yourself. Instead, it is about looking at the experiences objectively to really see how they have impacted you. This may be difficult, especially if you have spent a long time utilizing these experiences to confirm or deny beliefs about yourself. Try it anyway. The more you practice non-judgmental evaluation, the easier it will become.
The second aspect focuses on awareness of how your self-esteem is maintained. This is a key part, as we have to actively work at flipping the script that has been reinforced over and over again. If we do not look at how self-esteem is maintained, even in covert or seemingly trivial ways, it is likely that we will find ourselves in the same or similar positions as before. One major way to find how your self-esteem is maintained is to look at your self-talk. Self-talk is the running dialogue that you have with yourself in your mind throughout the day. If you find yourself saying, “I don’t have a running dialogue!” then I would encourage you to create awareness of your thoughts even while you are reading this post. We all engage in self-talk, but often times we are on autopilot and do not recognize it. Positive and negative self-talk have impacts on self-esteem and serve to reinforce how you view yourself. If, for example, you make a mistake and immediately say to yourself, “That was so stupid, I can’t believe I just did that. I should know better!” then you can begin to understand why you might view yourself negatively. Awareness around self-talk can be a helpful starting point when you are otherwise unaware of what maintains your self-esteem.
The final aspect of cultivating awareness focuses on how your self-esteem impacts you on a daily basis. Does it stop you from going after a promotion or from trying out a new clothing trend? Does it leave you feeling depressed or anxious? Through awareness of self-esteem’s effects on you, you can make a decision regarding what you would like to do with it. Remember the question that I encouraged you to pose to yourself in the last post: “Is this getting what you want?” This aspect of awareness can help you answer that question.
This post on cultivation of awareness brings you to a fork in your self-esteem journey. Do you choose the path of familiarity, or do you choose the path of growth? If you are choosing the latter, then stay tuned for the next post in this series. It will focus on increasing compassion and understanding to guide you gently toward a more helpful view of the self.