Our psyche is fragile. Many of us have experienced injuries that have left imprints and scars. Over time, these psychological injuries can affect how we value ourselves. Too often conversations about self-esteem tend to drift towards other people’s feelings and opinions about us. What we sometimes fail to remember is the ‘self’ in self-esteem. In other words, regardless of what is going on around us, we can control how we feel about ourselves.
Guy Winch, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, explores how sometimes we become entangled in a web that actually defeats our ability to embrace, nurture and love our inner ‘self”. In his book, Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries, he argues that in order to truly embrace that which is great, we have to express those affirmations in ways that are believable. “If something falls too far outside our belief system, it won’t persuade us,” says Winch.
The key is to hone in on superlatives that accurately reflect our reality. For example, if someone fails to receive a job promotion, saying mantras like, “I was too good for that job anyway.” Or, “My boss is jealous of me” only defeat the purpose. These statements are too generalized, and may actually be inaccurate.
Rather than focusing on nebulous statements, Wynch suggests that you use definitive, concrete assessments that emphasize things that are within your control. With the aforementioned example, instead, try: “I am qualified for the next level. I will focus on improving aspects of my job performance, education and training that will equip me to advance.”
By taking the mirror and pointing it towards yourself, you are more inclined to see what the real issues are and how to address them in a positive and productive manner. The more you believe what you are saying then there is a greater likelihood that you will actually internalize those thoughts.
In addition to verbal affirmations, Wynch believes in the power of the pen. He advocates taking time to create lists that clearly spell out your best traits and attributes. From that list, one should focus on one thing that you can improve further.
“If you do that once a day with each item from your list, that would be a really great thing in terms of restoring your self-esteem when it’s sustained an injury,” says Winch.
Like most physical injuries, psychological injuries do heal. They just require attention, intentionality and great self-care.