Self-Esteem

Today I’m talking about self-esteem………

Self Esteem is defined as confidence in our own worth or abilities.  Like many things though it’s not something we have or don’t have but something that fluctuates throughout our life and on a daily basis.  We might remember periods of our life when our self-esteem was particularly high or low but also within those periods our level of self-esteem could vary.  I’m sure we’ve all had times when we’ve been feeling great and then someone makes a comment.  Suddenly our self-esteem plummets through the floor and we need the help of a JCB to unearth it.  Other times we feel invincible and can just brush off comments – water off a duck’s back.  Why is this?

Usually when we feel good about ourselves we are more likely to be able to brush off comments easily. Positivity breeds positivity and our brain ignores the negative.  The conscious mind can only process a limited amount of information and yet it is bombarded with millions of pieces of information from all five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.  The conscious mind has to decide what information to take in and will use past experience to help decide what is important and what is not so important at that moment.  If we are in a positive mood the mind will pay more attention to positive things around us and so we can see when things have been said in jest or just let something wash over us.

If we are already feeling low, however, already telling ourselves negative things the mind will pay more attention to the pieces of information that reinforce this negative state.  The more we do this the more evidence and experience the mind builds to seek out negativity.  Our mind is clever and trying to protect us and keep us safe but it is doing so in a not particularly helpful way.

So how can we build and maintain our self-esteem?

We can use Positive Affirmations. Short positive sentences or mantras repeated a number of times to build or reinforce a positive state.  The mind has to buy into the affirmation though and believe it.  It’s no use repeatedly saying “I am amazing, I can do anything” when the first thought that pops into your head after saying it is “No you’re not, you completely messed up that exam last week”!  In those instances adjust the message slightly to get the buy in from your mind. If you are in a low state of self-esteem it might simply need to be “I am doing the best I can”.

Accept Compliments.  Don’t brush compliments off.  The people around you want to be around you and so if they pay you a compliment accept it, they mean it! This might feel a bit difficult and strange at first so just start with saying “thank you”.  When we accept the positive compliments the conscious mind is actively taking in that positive information.  When we hear negative comments the mind will consider these against our past experience – if that experience is hearing compliments and positive comments it will be able to dismiss negative comments more easily as they don’t fit with our experience.

Drop Negative Self Talk.  If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.  This goes for speaking to yourself as well as speaking to others.  We all bombard ourselves with negative self-talk, about our bodies, our abilities and a whole myriad of subjects.  That drip, drip, drip into the mind provides a reference point which the mind will go to when evaluating the information coming in from external sources.  If the external information aligns to the internal representation it reinforces that message.  Look out for when you are utilising negative self-talk and flip it into something positive.  A bit like the positive affirmations, make sure it is something that you can believe.  It might take a bit of practice.

Surround yourself with people who raise you up.  Make sure you have plenty of people around you that make you feel good about yourself.  As with the positive affirmations and accepting compliments the more your mind has positive reference points to compare external information to the more it can ignore negative comments and more easily put negative experiences behind it.  It would be great to live in a bubble of positivity but there will always be challenging situations and people that we do not to interact with that don’t bring out the best in us.  But by taking steps to build and maintain our self-esteem these situations will not affect us so deeply.

Don’t keep these tips to yourself – remember Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe.  Help to lift up others, pay them compliments and help build their self-esteem.  Use your positivity to breed more positivity around you.

 

Meditation or Relaxation – what is the difference?

 

I’m often asked by people in my classes what is the difference between relaxation and meditation.  They both have some similar effects on the mind and body and I believe they are both important in modern life but they are two different techniques.

Let’s start with relaxation.

There are two aspects to our nervous system – the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.  The sympathetic nervous system is where our ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response comes from if we are confronted by danger or some form of stress trigger.  The body releases adrenalin and cortisol to get the heart pumping faster and the breathing rate increases to get more oxygen around the body, particularly to the large muscle groups so that we can get out of danger quickly.  The parasympathetic nervous system on the other hand is our ‘rest, relax and restore’ response. The heart rate slows down, the breathing rate slows down and blood is transported all around the body to all the organs allowing them to function properly.

These days our lives are very much centred in the sympathetic nervous system.  We are so busy with so many competing demands for our time and energy the majority of us feel some form of stress on a daily basis.  And a small amount of stress isn’t a bad thing, the stress triggers us to take some form of action.  But if we are constantly in the ‘fight, flight, freeze’ mode then we are putting a lot of pressure onto our bodies and minds.  If the body is focussed on getting out of danger the mind is making very short term decisions, the blood circulation is diverted away from our digestive system, our blood pressure is increased for prolonged periods of time.

We therefore need to take time out and relax.  But this is easier said than done.  The common way to relax – a glass of wine in front of the TV.  We may think we are relaxing but we are still being bombarded with information which can create stress triggers.  The easiest way to relax is to find a few minutes of quiet time each day, lie down, focus on the breath and allowing all the muscles in the body to relax.   This allows the heart rate to slow down and the body to restore itself.

So what about meditation?

Meditation is a technique that allows us to become aware of the body and mind a to bring more awareness and compassion into our daily life.  Meditation works to quiet the internal chatter so that when we act we are acting out of choice rather than making habitual reactions to a situation.  It helps us to respond rather than react.  It also allows us to live in the present moment, not clinging to the past or pining all our hopes onto some future time or event.

Similar to relaxation techniques meditation also has the effect of switching on the parasympathetic nervous system but by tuning into the body and mind and choosing how we respond to situations it can reduce the effect of the stress triggers.  That’s not to say that if you’ll be more prone to danger because you can’t react fast enough rather it gives you the space to decide whether you need to react or not.

There are lots and lots of different meditation techniques but the general theme is a single point of concentration which then allows the mind to quieten.  It could be focussing on the breath – the sensation of the air flowing in through the nostrils, filling the lungs and the sensation as it leaves the body or one of the myriad other techniques.  Some days the focus may come easy other days it may be hard to quieten that internal chatter, the key is not to judge – it is what it is.  As with anything, regular and consistent practice is the key.

Over the next few months I’ll be exploring relaxation and meditation techniques in more depth and compiling some guided meditation and relaxation downloads.

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