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Five Psychotherapeutic Secrets that Boost Self Esteem

There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing - Aristotle

Do you go to parties and sometimes feel you’re on the outside looking in?

Do you look enviously at others who seem relaxed, happy and confident, those lucky individuals who are able to socialise with ease and confidence?

Do you hold back at work meetings even though you have good ideas?

Are you frightened to hear your voice in the room, just in case you say the wrong thing or, heaven forbid, make a fool of your self?

How do you talk to yourself?

When Brad arrived at my office, he was dressed impeccably, neatly shaven, Ipad under his arm, he looked the picture of a successful executive.

Turned out Brad was a very bright boy. He’d graduated from Oxford and gone on to become a tax lawyer. He certainly knew his stuff and had an excellent grasp of both tax and law.

The trouble was that his job did not just involve ploughing through books and producing spreadsheets. He had to go to regular meetings  and be proactive with his clients.  He had to socialise, and that came hard to Brad as he had developed a bit of a social phobia. This was producing problems at work and he came along to try and understand what was going on and what he could do to boost his self esteem.

What Brad didn’t realise (and not many people do), is that he was saying the all wrong things to himself!

I asked Brad to consider his internal dialogue.

‘What do you say to yourself when you’re in a meeting?‘ I asked.

Brad considered for a while.

‘Everyone at the table is so confident, They’re a lot older and wiser than me. They’ve been doing this work for so long, they seem to really know what they’re talking about.’

‘Is that what stops you speaking out, Brad?’

‘Well, I kind of run an film in my head where I make a statement and suddenly  I’ve been found out. They realise I’m an idiot and shouldn’t have the job at all.’

‘So you’re misusing your imagination and playing a negative background tape in your mind?‘ I asked

‘Yes, that’s it said Brad. ‘I’m running horror films and saying scary things to myself.’

‘and how do you think that will make you feel. How will that affect your behaviour?’

I asked.

Yes, Brad was certainly very bright. He ‘got it’ straight away. He was running the wrong software. He simply had to start being more positive and using his imagination to help, not harm himself.

Give yourself a psychological inoculation.

1. Learn to catch N.A.T.S

Negative Automatic Thoughts are the kind of thinking style that you’ve been doing for so long that you don’t even notice it any more.

Chances are, if you have N.A.T.S, they originated somewhere in childhood, either from parents, teachers, bullies or negative life experiences. The key to changing the record is being aware. Keep a note book and write them down as soon as you notice them.

You might be shocked. If you continually tapped yourself over the head with a hammer, you wouldn’t be surprised you had a headache, would you?

2. Replace them with P.A.T.S

Having noticed the N.A.T.S, it’s time to replace them with P.A.T.S.

These are Positive Automatic Thoughts and are the kind which are going to be helpful, not harmful to you.

Do you think your thoughts or do you allow your thoughts to think you?

Most people are surprised to learn…they have a choice!

3. Understand Iceberg theory

Like the iceberg in the sea, most of our mental activity lies beneath the surface with only a small proportion of our thinking which is conscious and easily accessed.

What stays in the subconscious has the ability to control you. Learning to bring subconscious processes to the surface again gives you a choice of response and the opportunity to boost self esteem.

4. Be your own best friend

Are you your own best friend or your own worst enemy?

Do you say the kind of things to yourself that you wouldn’t think of saying to anyone else?

Every thought has a domino effect by creating a feeling, bodily sensation and behavioural response.

Imagine walking into a party saying ‘I’m fat, ugly and no one will want to talk to me.‘ How will those thoughts make you feel? Where would you notice that in your body? Butterflies or a sick feeling in your stomach, a headache?

How will that affect your body language, eye contact, nervous smile, avoidant behaviour?

Would you even make it to the party?

Now run a different film.

Imagine walking into the party saying to yourself ‘I’m really pleased to be here. I’ve taken the time to choose a good outfit. It’s great to meet new people. I’m an interesting person, so I can chat easily but I know when to listen too.’

What emotions will those thoughts promote? Happy, smiley, confident, positive?

How will that affect your body language?

Better eye contact, confident smile, engaging behaviour?

Now you look forward to the party. Why wouldn’t you?

5. Affirm success

Positive affirmations have had a bad press.

Yet, the truth is, you can only think one thought at a time, so why would you choose to think negative thoughts when you can drown them out with positive, helpful affirmations?

Choose one that sits comfortably with you like ‘I can do this’ or ‘I just say yes to life’

Or the one that President Obama chose:

‘Yes we can’.

Seemed to work well for him, didn’t it?

How do you boost your self esteem when you’re feeling down? Do you have your own strategy or are the secrets shared a help for you? Let’s get a discussion started in the comments…

Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.