Self esteem is so much dependent on our ability to have love and compassion for ourselves. Somehow, we tend to extend love and compassion to others when they are suffering but when it comes to ourselves, we become too hard and begin to berate and condemn ourselves. This practice is counterproductive for our self esteem and leads to depression and anxiety.
Let’s look at some of the ways we can cultivate love and compassion for ourselves. There is a lot of research on the topic of mindfulness and how it can change the brain patterns. Regular practice of meditation tends to enhance our ability to go deep within ourselves and improve inner peace and serenity. It also tends to wipe out the effects of self criticism and value judgments we tend to impose on ourselves.
Self compassion requires that you soften your heart and give yourself a break from self judgment, become kind and caring towards yourself. Criticizing yourself or others will add to your suffering. It is optional and you can choose not to indulge in self criticism. So try to attend to your wounded heart with compassion in order to heal. If you attend your wounded heart with negative judgment, it will cause more suffering and it will not be worth it. Everyone makes mistakes and you are no exception. So next time you catch yourself being hard on yourself, turn to yourself as a kind parent turns to a child and say, “It’s okay, I am just a human, God bless my heart.” Then consider feeling more deeply into the emotion that’s occupying your mind. Try to place your hand on the place in your body that feels this emotion the most. Try to soothe yourself by saying, “Of course it feels awful! Nobody likes to face the outcomes of a wrong doing.” In this way, you will extend kindness to yourself and you love yourself even when you are hurting and feel miserable. Stay in the moment until you feel the pain subsiding.
Such healing is particularly beneficial when you extend it o the fragile inner child of yours who had been hurt and has become fearful. Try to look into your tendency of self blame and shaming yourself. It will make you aware of how others have let you down even though you counted on them. It is a good idea to stay with the feelings of anguish as opposed to suppressing and denying the feelings.
In a nutshell, if you can learn to accept yourself and become kind versus engaging in avoidance, you feel a river of grief and pain pouring in your heart which had been masked by self blame for so many years. When you show compassion towards yourself in the face of anguish, you will notice a decrement in your self-judgments you have been harboring for so long. At this time, it is highly beneficial to say things like, “I have been angry and unhappy. It was too painful for a child to accept. But it was not my fault that these things happened to me. I am so brave to do as well as I did.”
In this way self compassion will heal and empower you. You will be able to give yourself value and positive regard that others in your life failed to reward you with. Self compassion enables you to be just who you are, where you are, and as you are by giving you a means to be with your pain rather dwelling in the memories about past events. Compassion is facilitated by mindfulness practice as you attend to pain as inevitable part of life. The open heart extends self compassion to your inner critic who had swayed you into feeling depressed and hopeless.
Criticism and anger arise from top down orientation and compassion arises from bottom up orientation according to Daniel Siegel in his book, The Mindful Brain (2007) . Compassion originates in the body and the heart. These orientations are simply habits, and it is your choice how you want to operate.
You can learn to witness unpleasant thoughts and emotions with compassion. When you notice that you are being hard on yourself, try to turn toward the self criticism with a soft and kind acknowledgement, like,” I am a human being who just made a mistake. I still love myself anyway.” Similarly, if you are being bothered by guilt pangs that are multiplying your feelings of guilt, try to say these reassuring statements, “Will feeling this way promote my well being? Will I learn anything from this by harping on my mistakes?” So try to attend to your thoughts and emotions with a friendly kind of attention.
It is also crucial to be self compassionate when it comes to relationships with others. If you are surrounded by people who are always taking advantage of you, manipulate you, command you and you have to always give in, be aware. Try to spend more time with people who give you positive regard, make you feel loved and appreciated so that you can bring out the best in you.
These practices will definitely enhance your self esteem and also reduce symptoms of depression. It will facilitate optimism and empowerment. Hypnosis can also help build self esteem and boost self confidence.
Please visit our Blossom Hypnotherapy page to learn how hypnosis can help reduce symptoms of Anxiety disorders.
References: Living with your heart wide open by Steve Flowers, MFT and Bob Stahl, Ph.D
Siegel R , 2007. The Mindful Brain: Reflections and attunement in the cultivation of well being. New York: WW. Norton.