Have you ever noticed yourself gravitating towards certain people because it just feels good to be with them? According to C. Jesse Carlock, Ph.D., editor and author of Enhancing Self-Esteem, these are our “bridge people” – those who nurture us and boost our self-esteem. They’re the bridge between the potentially harmful feedback we may have received in our upbringing, and the confident people we are growing into.
Body image is a crucial issue for those with eating disorders. In a previous series of posts, we explored the Five A’s of Better Body Esteem™. But self-esteem goes far beyond how people feel about their bodies and weight, so let’s look at how these same concepts apply to self-esteem in general.
1. Awareness – The first stage of improving your self-esteem is to be mindful of its current level, observing your thoughts and feelings without judgement. Clients sometimes get frustrated with that because they want to jump into action. But you can’t move into any of the other phases until you can approach your self-talk with curiosity and then move on to these sub-categories of awareness:
- Acknowledgement of what is going on, without judging, so that we can eventually start to…
- Anticipate, e.g., “Wow, when I’m around that person, I seem to have a pattern of judging myself or feeling inferior to others,” so that you can navigate your way around these situations and be prepared for those triggers.
2. Appreciation – The next step is minimizing the appreciation we get from others and moving towards being able to appreciate our own strengths, e.g., being a loyal good friend, being organized, being pleasant, being tolerant. It might be appreciating ourselves physically, or maybe how we continue to work on ourselves. The sub-categories of appreciation are:
- Achievement – Taking stock of our own accomplishments and noticing those concrete examples, allowing there to be an…
- Abundance of good things, and for those things to grow
3. Action – THEN comes the action, as we make visible, tangible effort to take care of ourselves. This may be working on a relationship by setting boundaries. When we think we’re worth it, we start setting more and more boundaries. The sub-categories of action are:
- Attention – Choosing to focus on the most important things to our recovery
- Amends – Taking responsibility for our actions and their consequences
- Aspirations – Asking what we aspire to be like, what we want our thoughts and feelings about ourselves to be like, what we want our lives to be like
- Accountability – Setting goals and following through
4. Acceptance – Things won’t be perfect, but we accept them at face value and accept “the things we cannot change” (Serenity Prayer). This doesn’t mean giving up; it means joining with reality. Accepting something doesn’t mean we’ve given up, or that we have to approve of something or be consumed by it. It means we honor its existence, “It’s okay as it is and that’s that.”
5. Affirmations – Consciously affirming all of these elements, actions and thoughts helps solidify them and build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. It’s important not to jump into affirmations too prematurely before you’ve done the other work and cleared the way for this new way of thinking. When you’re ready, Louise Hay shares daily affirmations on the You Can Heal Your Life website and on her website and Facebook page.
Self-esteem is parallel to body image (Better Body EsteemTM), but is directed more to what’s going on inside. Improving your self-esteem in the above sequence will make room for relationships and connection, healthy nutrition, balance and recovery.