Tag: self esteem

What You Say To Yourself Really Matters

Self-talk has a major impact on who we are and also on who we become, whether the talk is good or bad.  What we say to ourselves has a lot to do with our self-esteem, our self-confidence.

This truth hit home for me recently when I had the horrible accident with my middle right finger, an experience which taught me a lot about my character.  See my blog of January 31, Drawing On Unknown Character Strengths.

Anyhow, to make a long story short, my finger was stuck in a garage door for about 20 minutes, putting my entire person under great duress. And all I could think when that door clamped down on my finger was how stupid I had been to use my hand to try to manually close the door. 

What a weakening thought, which made me feel useless and hopeless, and certain that I would lose my finger all for being stupid, but thankfully, the good self-talk overrode and pushed the menacing thoughts back. It was an accident, the part of me who knew we needed strength to overcome, pointed out and from there,  my confidence to survive the trauma with my finger intact rose greatly.

In our podcast, UIO: Your Confidence Inside Out Cheryl Grace stresses the importance of positive self-talk not only when in a pinch but also on an ongoing basis. To this end, she mentions encouraging herself daily with self-love while getting dressed. 

I love this idea and though I am not disciplined enough to employ this tool every day, there are plenty of days when positive self-talk makes the difference in a good day or a bad one. For example, the other day when I had to get through some work that had lots to do with numbers (a budget for UIO), the negative self-talk got in there first (while I was getting dressed) and reminded me that I was really quite bad at budgeting, thus it was going to be a really horrible day. Why didn’t I just put it off for yet another day or not bother at all.

And just as I was giving in to the chiding, it suddenly occurred to me that though budgeting is not my thing, I am actually not that bad at it and I am married to an accountant who is more than willing to help out with the spreadsheets, the bit I really don’t like.

With this self-talk, I felt myself perk up and as I headed to my desk, I looked forward to getting the task off my plate, a very different feeling to dreading a task. It is done, though the spreadsheet is still hanging. Never mind.

Also, in the podcast Your Confidence Inside Out, Cheryl points out the importance of not saying things to yourself that you would not say to a friend.  A great rule of thumb for self-talk indeed. If a friend had called me up and said my finger is stuck in a garage door, there is no way I would have called her stupid, even if I was thinking it. The point is the nurturer kicks in when it comes to being encouraging to others. This same nurturer needs to stay close to self at all times, on an ongoing basis, if you will.

So, the next time you get the urge to tell yourself how stupid you are or how unflattering you look, think again. And remember that your self-talk has the ability to inform your experience, your day, your life.

In UIO: On Personal Development, Robyn Spens points out the importance of not only believing that you are enough but telling yourself as often as you can.

This rule stands even when you are down. So instead of focusing on the downside, focus on the upside.  As for me, though I am still going through a slow healing process, the upside is that I have my finger, which rightly or wrongly is tied to my confidence to do a lot of things—one of them  is writing.

Thank goodness for positive self-talk. Check out our podcasts Your Confidence Inside Out and On Personal Development for more tips on the matter. Both podcasts are available wherever you listen to podcasts.

Taking the High Road To Tackle Poor Body Image

First things first. I’d like to wish all of our American followers and listeners a very Happy Thanksgiving today. As I celebrate with family, I have been reflecting on body image and our review of the latest podcast series 3. This week we have covered some of the later episodes of the series and in particular Episode 5. Here I spoke with Charlotte Aynsley about Internet Safety and in particular Body Image. The two go hand in hand.

I hardly know anyone who hasn’t faced problems with body image at one time or another. Of course, there are cases more extreme than others, which lead to eating disorders and other physical and mental health problems. No ifs, ands or buts, these are serious matters. Common body image issues that are less serious such as seeing oneself fat obsessively and consistently, however, are not to be dismissed lightly either, as they can also have a bearing on self-esteem and lead to health hazards.

Because body image and self-esteem are intrinsically linked, even those most confident hit lows about their body.

“I am fat; I’d like to lose a few pounds and then I’ll feel better; Only if my bum were bigger or smaller for that matter,” are just a few of the phrases that many women and some men use about their body on a regular basis. It’s all about perception and assumption that everyone else sees it that way, too.

According to a report by researcher Helen Gallivan, 53% of 13 year-old American girls are unhappy with their bodies. This number grows to 78% by the time girls reach 17.  And In another survey, carried out by Edelman Intelligence for the 2017 Dove Global Girls Beauty and Confidence Report, it emerged that only 46% of girls globally had high body esteem, while the figure was even lower in the UK (39%). Of the countries included, only China and Japan fared worse.

Over the years, I have been told often that I don’t see myself the way others do, particularly at retreats, leadership conferences and so on. While others tend to see me as a confident woman who is comfortable in her own skin (and I am most of the time), I have low moments too. This came home to roost while  having coffee with two longstanding friends during what I thought was a high point in my life.

You look great, Sonja, but you might be a little thin, one of them said and the other agreed. How is your work-life balance? Are you eating  right?

Excuse me, I am bigger now than I have ever been! If anything, I need to shift about three pounds.  Long silence, which plunked a pink elephant in the room.

Then you have a body image problem, one friend said. I’ve never known you to be happy with your body. Never! And the other chimed in:  She’s right! Maybe there is a self-esteem issue, too. Pink Elephant turns dark grey at this point and mist falls over the room!

I do not have a body image or self-esteem problem, thank you very much, I stress while refusing a pastry that might contribute to weight gain. I feel and look great, so how can I have a body image problem. End of conversation!

Actually, that conversation, though not recalled verbatim, did not end there. I recounted it in my mind’s eye repeatedly, until I decided to take a deeper look  at my obsession with body size and what was really going on. Though I’ve never been overweight, I’ve always referred to my thighs as thunder thighs and my bum as rather enhanced. Often when I am trying on clothes, I hear myself announcing: “I will never get into that,” and then slip right into it. Sometimes, of course, I don’t slide into a pair of jeans, for instance.

And when this happens, the key is knowing that the jeans are too little and that I am not too big. It has taken me awhile to get my head around the negative body image stuff, but with a heighten awareness I now know that when a few extra pounds drag me down, it has more to do with the consequences of eating and drinking unhealthily than anything else.  Thus, I get a grip on my diet and I don’t mean dieting, rather eating good foods that my body enjoys.

Make no mistake about it, the issues I have dealt with over the years don’t compare to some of the more serious matters that others contend with, but my problems are real and have often hung over me like a dark cloud from time to time. So nowadays on the odd occasion when I am told that I don’t see myself the way others do or that I have a body image problem, I don’t hit back defensively and go into a slump, I take the high road, if you will, taking a few tips from the ladies of UIO: You Inside Out.

  • Banish self-deprecating talk!

  • Focus on health!

  • Embrace genes, fanny and all!

  • Focus on likes and not on dislikes!

  • Make the most of the haves (that is what you have); ignore the have nots!

These tips can help with all poor body image problems. Though weight rates high amongst such issues, it is not the only culprit. For instance, as a girl, I do remember feeling unattractive as early as puberty, from disliking my wide, flat nose, mainly because peers teased me as such, and then later detesting my new breasts, which looked like mounds on my chest. And then as a young woman, I couldn’t understand why I had stick thin legs. It is a wonder I grew into a confident woman at all.

But I did and so can you with self-esteem in tow. When the low moments hit, and they will, just take the high road. You can find the links to the podcast here

you can subscribe to our podcast feed, or you can access the podcast on iTunes here.

Tuning Into Your Thoughts For A Good News Story

After more years than I care to admit to, I finally made the connection between food and physical health, though it took a few intolerances to convince me. Yet I still haven’t quite gotten my head around food for mental and emotional health, which has more to do with thinking than anything else. Of course, real food can muddle the mind, too.

But let’s face it, our thoughts do play a major role in our emotional and mental health. One article that I read years ago puts it like this: thoughts are stories that we tell ourselves or that someone else tells us about ourselves.

That’s all good as long as the stories are all good. But when it comes to emotional abuse, the stories can cause health hazards, even if they appear to be good stories. Radio personality, Jillian ‘JJ’ Simmons, guest in our latest podcast, On Emotional Bullying, says that sometimes emotional abuse masquerades as love.  When her emotionally abusive boyfriend would often ask her to stay home, preventing her from going out and seeing friends and loved ones, she told herself his request had to do with love.  Although he wasn’t going to be at home with her, he would tell her that he wanted her to be the first person he saw when he returned.

In a healthy mind, this logic breaks down rather quickly but in a mind that is under the spell of emotional abuse, it makes perfect sense, even if it is telling a bad news story. I can relate. Though I can’t say I have had a similar experience, I have had tricky situations that have consistently caused me emotional unrest, leading to wear and tear on my self-esteem and keeping a negative story alive.  This stuff is not in your face but it is in your mind, even if you can’t see it.

JJ points out that you have to be on your guard and recognise emotional abuse for what it is. Name calling, taunting, controlling and so on all fit the bill. One of her hot tips for self-protection is to take care of yourself at the core. This means working on your self-esteem and ultimately knowing who are. In addition, she says it is important to watch what you feed your mind. Easier said than done, right.

Actually, it is as simple or as complex as watching what you feed your body.  As much as I love croissants and cinnamon rolls and the list keeps going with pastries, I have been gluten intolerant for years now.  Admittedly, the first year or so I would remove all gluten from my diet for about three months at a time, most of the time before a holiday, and then on holiday I would eat whatever I jolly well pleased and pay for it later. 

Though the physical discomfort would come, it was tolerable and then one day, it just wasn’t anymore.  So now I don’t focus on the foods that I used to love, regardless of consequences, I focus on the ones that love me sincerely. And you know what, I am healthier and happier for it.

As for my food for my thoughts, I’m getting there.  Key to my journey is tuning into the narrative that I am feeding my mind directly or indirectly and also recognising what really is emotional bullying and what is not.   Of course, there are healthy disagreements and different ways of life between friends, acquaintances and family members that call for healthy resolutions. That’s a fact of life.

For more hot tips and tools on how to protect yourself against emotional bullying, listen to On Emotional Bullying with JJ Simmons on our website, iTunes, Soundcloud or wherever you listen to podcasts. Meanwhile, tune into your thoughts to ensure your own good news story.

Planning for future you

Our latest podcast, On Personal Development, the last in our second series of UIO, the podcast for teen girls , got me reflecting upon my own personal journey thus far—the importance of gaining self-confidence and self-awareness early on in life, as well as finding role models.

And though I can’t pinpoint a place in time when suddenly I knew the importance of developing personally, I do remember how much I wanted to be a journalist as a teenager and what I did to get the show on the road, at least from a personal perspective. From reading the announcements at church as if reading the news on NBC to behaving like an investigative reporter when I truly had nothing to investigate, I took a rather naïve yet enthusiastic approach to pursuing my goals.

My family might recall that I always had a question for you no matter what the situation. How could they forget?

In my mind’s eye, all I had to do was hone my natural skills and for sure I would get whatever job I pursued. Peter Jennings, who dropped out of high school but still served as anchor of ABC World News Tonight from 1983 until his death in 2005, was doing so after all.

You see, though I was born in a different era, a different gender, a different race to Jennings, it never occurred to me that I might not have the same breaks, same opportunities that he had. And as it turned out I didn’t, but I did have the desire to pursue my dreams and the confidence to act. And while I didn’t end up on ABC, I have enjoyed some wonderful success as a journalist, a writer and now a podcaster but not without a challenge or two.

To this end, On Personal Development special guest Robyn Spens, a coach and rapid transformational therapist, points out that confidence is key, particularly when in an unfamiliar situation or facing challenges. Here, here to that.

I will never forget feeling as though I was going to drown during a re-branding project, which I was leading, as a major organisation’s interim communications director. And suddenly in a particularly confident moment, it hit me that I knew more than anyone else, even if I didn’t know everything. Thus, it was confidence that saw me through.

It really matters in developing one’s full potential, but it is not the only thing that matters. Robyn talks about the importance of nutrition and sleep, for example, something I am still getting my head around.

One thing that I have learned along the way is that personal development is for life, even if there are stages in life when some bits are more relevant than others. For example, when I first moved to New York, I knew very little about table etiquette. Sure, I knew the basics and had pretty good manners, but when I found myself at a posh event at Tavern On The Green, acting as publicist to the CEO of my organisation, things got really personal.

Since then, I have resorted to my investigative journalism skills. When in doubt find out. Check out On Personal Development for more hot tips from Robyn Spens.

The Spirit of Identity

Identity is one of those things that is always there from birth–we get many tags if you will–a gender, a race and nationality, a weight, a health check and eventually a name and all sorts of abilities and so on. Still, as if it has never been there before identity, as a huge concept, pops up on the teenage radar screen with blinking red lights: Warning! Warning! This is your gender, your sexuality, your race, your ability and here is what it means.

The pressure is on to identify with different parts of you and if there is an internal clash or negative connotations about something you identify with, this can cause problems.

More on this coming in our UIO: On Undiagnosed Mental Illness podcast with Eleanor Segall.  In the meantime, however, it is important to make the point that identity and mental health are linked, if only because clashes and negativity can cause anxiety, worries and so on.

In some instances, anxiety and stress can escalate into depression, even self-harm. And even in the majority of instances when it doesn’t escalate, the stress over identity is to be taken seriously. At the very least, bad moods and low self-esteem can set in.

And though it is easy to say don’t worry about it, that is easier said than done. It has taken me many years to really understand this and even now I have my moments. Rachita Saraogi and Rebecca Thomson, in our upcoming UIO: Your Identity Inside Out podcast, advise not owning the negativity, leaving it with the people who perpetuate it. You might not be able to change them, but you can change your views on how you view yourself, who you are.

That’s the spirit!

Reflecting on my teenage years, I remember obsessing a lot about hair— its length, its texture and so on. While I can’t say that I have ever consciously disliked my hair for its texture or length, I was not immune to beliefs about Afro hair, if you will, the talk about good hair and bad hair.

Admittedly, there were times in my life when I wanted a certain hairstyle because it was popular and considered the highest mark of beauty. For example, long straight hair was the in thing but as I wasn’t in charge of my hair, my mother was, I didn’t get it.

I doubt if it had anything to do with the political belief that relaxed hair is somehow symbolic of a European standard of beauty. Her reasoning more or less had to do with growing up too fast and economics.

Nowadays, many teen girls have returned to natural hair, as part of a resurgence of the natural hair movement in black communities around the globe, which proposes that hair is healthier for the individual physically and mentally in its natural state.  Furthermore, some believe that natural hair suggests a stronger sense of identity with one’s heritage and straight hair suggests the opposite.

Though I don’t agree with the line of thinking, I think it is wonderful to see teen girls and women with Afro hair in its natural state—the ponytails, the braids, the Afros, but just the same I love seeing hair in all of its versatility as long as it is healthy and well maintained.  That is what is key for me and mainly why I continue to relax my hair—it is either for me to maintain, though I have worn braids over the years, returning my hair to its natural state and in high school, I sported an Afro.

Regardless of style, I identify strongly with my hair and what I have learned about this over the years is that it is mine, part of my beauty, part of my health, and rightly or wrongly it is a big, big, big part of my self-esteem. Thus, regardless of trends, movements, beliefs, politics, I need to be happy with my hair—not the world.

And nowadays, I don’t make any excuses or apologies for that. End of story. Underneath the hair is where my real identity lies and it is up to me to embody that. That’s the spirit!

 

Stay tuned for UIO: Your Identity Inside Out podcast coming soon.