There is a wealth of useful insights we can glean from successful writer and entrepreneur, Susan Jeffers, who in her early 20’s successfully overcame a debilitating lack of self-belief. She believes that grave damage to her self-esteem began with the 'expectations' imposed on her by the school system she experienced.
“Mental sabotage was a widespread response to any expectations imposed on me or my friends at school. I engaged in feeding my inner critic at any and every opportunity. The more I tried to encourage a more positive view of myself, the more I ‘talked’ myself into failure with the inevitable devastating effect on my fragile self-esteem. This applied to anything I tried: losing weight, addressing my addiction, making friends, joining a swimming club, passing some exams. Something inside of me (and many of my friends as well), felt threatened by any small success which in turn led to me feeling I was a fraud and would be ‘found out’ . I just didn’t want to give up my damaging patterns of thinking & behaviour. The more that was expected of me, or that I expected of myself, the more my very powerful ‘inner critic’ kicked in to totally convince me that I was, in fact, rubbish. So I only looked for evidence that this was true. What you focus on grows, and for me this meant I became hard-wired to fail. I still have to monitor myself regularly to ensure that my thought processes aren’t leading me in a self-destructive direction!”
So what can we learn from Dr Jeffer’s experience as a teenager which will help us to build our own flagging self-belief and self-esteem?
Firstly, there are 2 essential questions to stimulate thought-
How do we best prevent our ‘inner critic’ from undermining our success?
How can we progress towards ‘controlling your controllables’?
The process needs to begin with an awareness of our strengths – so how about writing down answers to the following more specific questions -
How do I want things to be different?
What will this get for me?
What will happen if things stay the same?
How am I thinking/feeling/behaving when I am exercising my ‘best self’?
Then engage in a bit more self-reflection using these further questions -
Am I deeply rooted in who I really am or am I putting on a mask/role which isn’t really me [eg fulfilling others expectations of me?]
Am I focusing on what has gone well today/this week [doesn’t mean ‘ignoring’ failures – just re-framing them so they can be useful for building self-esteem, not destructive of it.]
Am I appreciating the steps I have taken towards my ‘goal’ – especially the small ones? Or am I allowing my inner critic to suggest these small steps are worthless & are actually indicators of failure because they aren’t big enough or immediately successful – How can you choose to see them differently! Will you make this choice?
In fact, it is essential to APPRECIATE every step towards your Goal, no matter how small – including those which appear to have taken you in a wrong direction – look again 🤓! How can you integrate this ‘failure’ into your plan? Only when this has happened will you begin to realise the power you have to control even more of what you think, feel and do – exercising this control makes us stronger. Are your energies going into exercising your most helpful ‘inner voice’ or are you too busy marshalling the strength of your inner critic? The choice really is yours!
CONTOLLING YOUR CONTROLLABLES: You could ask yourself these questions?
What messages have I received in my past to affirm I do have control/power over outcomes and should use that control to achieve goals which will increase my self-esteem?
What messages have I received that tell me I'm not powerful/in control? Where have those messages come from? How do I KNOW they are true?
What brakes have I applied to my own identity and actions today? Why?
What has been in my control today/this week?
What encouragements and affirmations have I given myself today?
Try stating this to yourself “Past experiences can create fears. It’s my own choice to affirm or reject fears, not my parents, colleagues, friends etc. I can control MY controllables in .... situation by doing more of 1 – 2 – 3 .... [be as specific as possible about the small steps you can take so the 1 – 2 – 3 is easy to repeat/remember/act on] The way things are for me now is not the way things have to be. By clarifying our thoughts about what we can control, and by encouraging ourselves to find happiness in what we are doing/feeling/thinking, we can participate in a healthier future. TAKE BACK CONTROL! Fear doesn’t have to dominate your thoughts and actions. Susan Jeffers suggests you ‘Feel the Fear & do it anyway!!’ Her book could change your life by giving you the insight and tools you need to vastly improve your ability to handle any given situation. Just think about it for a moment. You could learn to live your life the way you want ...... which means you could move from a place of pain, paralysis, depression, procrastination and indecision to one of power, energy, enthusiasm and action! Wow!! Be the best of who you are. Start today.