How to boost your self-esteem in just 28 days

If somebody said to you “Your hair looks nice” then added “I don’t like your shoes” which of those two comments would stick in your mind more?

We’re hard-wired for the negative

Each of us has a built in ‘negativity-bias’ that ensures we pay more attention to and remember negatives far more easily than positives. Its probably one of the main reasons our species survived long enough you to be sat here reading this blog. For example, its far more useful from an evolutionary perspective to notice a rustle in a bush behind you than it is to notice a beautiful sunset if you catch my drift.

Being nice to ourselves doesn’t come easily

It’s thought that it takes roughly four or five positives to balance a negative. Think back to all of the comments your partner (or ex-partners) have made towards you. I’ll put a quid on it that its the negative ones that spring to mind most readily.

A message from Tom & Jerry

Do you remember those old cartoons where you had a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other both trying to feed ideas into the character’s head? The devil trying to get them to do some evil deed whilst the angel tried to stop them. Well, many of us seem to have our own version of this but with one major difference, there’s no angel speaking in our ear, just a devil shouting loudly. The devil is our self critical voice telling us how ugly, overweight, useless, unworthy etc etc we are.

The devil’s not all bad

I don’t think theres any problem us having a devil on our shoulder, as its what could make us think twice before auditioning for X-factor because our gran told us we have a good voice. This devil can save us some pain, but its got to be balanced out alongside the angel. The two together can maybe lead us towards objectivity.

Negativity comes easily to most of us

Listening to the devil on our shoulder just becomes habit after a while, just like anything if we do it often enough becomes automatic. But we have to learn to be balanced with ourselves. Too much devil and we become down on ourselves, too much angel and we end up as a laughing stock on Britain’s got talent.

Harness the power of habit

Most of us probably find the devil bit easy, and the angel bit hard. So it needs to be trained in through repetition like any other habit. How we think determines how we feel, so negative thoughts = negative mood, positive thoughts = positive mood. It may not be realistic to expect to have positive thoughts all of the time, but aiming for balanced objective thoughts is surely within most of our grasp.

Come on & dip your toe in

Lets try a little experiment. I want you to take a piece of paper and try to write down one great (or just good if great feel too difficult) thing about yourself. An example could be “I’m a food friend” or “I’m good at my job” etc. Ready, go…

Once you’ve got that one thing down I want you to aim to build your list to two items. Then three. See how far you can go… When I’ve done this with training groups in the past, some people have even struggled to write one. Some have ended up in tears at trying to do this.

Practise the art of balancing your thoughts

The technique I want to leave you with is called thought balancing, and I want you to try it over the next 28 days. Here’s how it works; for every negative thought (devil) you hear yourself saying to yourself you have to balance it out with at least one positive about yourself. It doesn’t have to be related to the negative. For example: “I’m useless at this” “But I’m a good parent”

For week one I want you to aim for a 1 to 1 balance (negative to positive) Week two, aim for two positives to every negative. Week three, three positives to every negative. And week four, four positives to every negative.

It’ll be worth the effort, I promise

After 28 days I cant guarantee you you’ll be as positive as the Dalai lama, but at in the very least you’ll be aware of that pesky devil on your shoulder, and be beginning to be a bit kinder to yourself and flexing that previously dormant positive self image muscle.

Jonathan Pittam
Mental health & wellness trainer



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