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Replacing “Don’ts” With “Do’s” for Self-Esteem

sticky note on fingerAfter last week’s post on name-calling and how it ruins your self-esteem (and possibly other people’s as well), a reader called Multnoma left the following comment:

 Ok. I get that I am holding myself back by calling names. Even if only in my head. Or under my breath.
But it’s only another item on the list of what I shouldn’t do.
I don’t know what I *should* do. Where is the list for that?

Multnoma’s comment was right on the money; it’s relatively easy to come up with a “Don’t” list.

This is one of those times when mental health advice parallels physical health advice.

For example, we’ve all heard these popular “Don’ts” for health:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol/drug abuse
  • High sodium
  • Refined sugar
  • Too much red meat
  • etc., etc., etc.

But there always seem to be differing opinions about what we *should* do…

  • Vegan diet, or everything in moderation?
  • More fruit, or less?
  • Reduce carbohydrates, fat, or protein?
  • How much fiber?
  • How much water?
  • Are supplements even helpful, let alone necessary?
  • Etc., etc., etc.

In light of conflicting opinions, at a certain point we’re left to rely on our own observations and intuition about our bodies.

For instance I’ve noticed that for me, there is such a thing as too much fiber.

Mike on the other hand is a two-legged fiber-processing factory. He can handle any amount, it seems.

Fasting is not my friend no matter how much I’d like it to be.

Others thrive on fasting and swear by it.

Ultimately, we all must decide for ourselves what works and what doesn’t when it comes to our health.

This is probably true for mental health as well.

Solutions Need Problems

If you wander the earth asking people what you should do, you’ll probably often get the response, “About what?”

This is because the answer to the question, “What should I do?” depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

In the physical realm, if you’re trying to lower your blood pressure I’m told that, among other things, you should reduce your salt intake.

If your blood pressure is fine but you sweat a lot, you probably need to make sure you get enough salt to replace the sodium that’s lost through sweating.

Different goals, different means.

If your goal is to improve your self-esteem, the basic “to-do” is to esteem yourself.

Self-esteem is an action.

But the “to-do” inherent in that action depends on what it means to you.

How do you show esteem?

Here are a few ways that esteem can be expressed:

  • verbal or written communication (e.g., “I like you; you’re different”)
  • generosity (donating your time, money or energy)
  • compassion (seeking to understand and commiserate rather than judge)
  • affection (inviting closeness; cuddling, caressing, smiling, gazing)
  • interest; attention (being enthusiastic about knowing the person)
  • admiration (recognizing qualities you appreciate)

Think about how you treat those you hold in high esteem. What are your go-to actions?

That gives you your answer, because once you know how you’d treat those people, you can treat yourself the same way.

Are you an affectionate person? Give yourself a hug.

Do you enjoy being generous? Give yourself a gift.

Are you interested in others? How about getting interested in yourself?

Try a little constructive wallowing; knowing your feelings is a shortcut to knowing your authentic self.

If you have ideas about how to practice self-esteem “do’s” rather than “don’ts,” please share them in the Comments section.

Many thanks to Multnoma, whose comment inspired this post.

Photo courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

About Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist, speaker and author based in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in supporting parents of estranged adult children through therapy, consulting and other resources, and offers assertiveness training and executive coaching for organizations. The author of "Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them" and the "Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children," Tina is often featured in the media as an expert on communication and relationships. Her blog on PsychologyToday.com is called "Constructive Wallowing."

0 Responses to "Replacing “Don’ts” With “Do’s” for Self-Esteem"

  • Jasmine
    September 13, 2014 - 5:03 pm Reply

    I’m very busy thinking of ways to esteem myself, and I agree this is crucial. In my (two month) experience of not mentally verbally abusing myself, however, I am amazed by how restorative the absence of abuse is. And I think it is the necessary condition. I used to give myself treats and the odd compliment, but as long as I was criticising and sneering at myself as well, those occasional kindnesses were no help at all.
    Maybe there’s a way of turning the “shouldn’t” into a “should”: Rather than thinking “I shouldn’t call myself names or speak negatively to myself”, think “when I slip up and say something negative or cruel to myself, I should immediately acknowledge what I just did, and apologise to myself without reservation.” I say something like “I’m so sorry I said that to you, it was completely out of line and unacceptable.” And then I buy myself a present.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      September 13, 2014 - 9:22 pm Reply

      Ooh, Jasmine, what a wonderfully heartfelt, unreserved apology. It feels good to read it. I have a feeling your two months are going to turn into the rest of your life. Thank you for taking the time to leave your thoughts.

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