By Danielle McKenna
Something that I’ve noticed on lockdown when talking to friends, family and clients is that without our usual validation that comes from contact with our friends, pat on the back from a co-worker or parental praise, we are feeling a little lost and a little in need of reassurance. We have not turned into a nation of babies, on the contrary, we are a nation with very real worries, and we need to be soothed.
This downturn in self-esteem is unsurprising given that our usual human connection has been dismantled and our usual coping mechanisms against that horrendous inner critic or gremlin have been put on hold for the time being. Some of us are drowning in the negative self-talk and worries and it’s about as pretty as Joe Exotic’s mullet. However, now is not the time to expect to be rescued (sadly this ain’t Disney), now is the time to do the work yourself. To put it plainly, during this crisis it is time for you to be your own champion. ‘So how do we do that, I hear you cry?’ Well I’m going to tell you . . .
First of all, why is a healthy self esteem so important? How we feel about and view ourselves effects every aspect of our life experiences. It effects the way we function at work, how we love, how we respect ourselves in sexual relationships and how we parent. Our self-esteem is the emotional appraisal of your own worth and has a direct correlation to how high in life we are likely to rise. In short self-esteem and feeling worthwhile is the key to success or failure.
Self-Care. You absolutely have to give yourself permission to allocate time for your self-care and mindfulness. Knowing that you are deserving of time dedicated just for you is a reward that over time will teach you to value yourself fully. Pockets of self-care are like love notes to your soul, reminding yourself of your value. So, mindful time, read, run yourself a bubble bath, nourish your body, move and connect with nature wherever possible.
Inner Critic. Be mindful of the voice you use when talking to yourself. Notice the things you say – most people can probably name 5 nasty things they said to themselves before breakfast. Is this helpful? Is this serving you? Would you speak to your child or your friend in the same tone of voice or narrative? If the answer is ‘NO’ then the writing is on the wall.
Change your story. Are you someone who finds themselves saying ‘I could never do that, I’m rubbish at ‘X’ or ‘I could never get promotion, no one notices me at work.’ Try and reframe that negative talk to ‘with practice I could be amazing at X’ or ‘I’m going to get that promotion by being more vocal to my line manager.’ For example, if you think you’re a rubbish cook, lockdown could be a great time to learn a recipe. The story we tell ourselves manifests so make sure your story is worthy of you.
Start Journaling – notice when sad or anxious feelings come up and what might be at the core of them. With more time to pause and reflect on who we are and what motivates us, this is such a good opportunity to explore self. Start with simple questions;
If I was more accepting of my body, I would feel . . .
If I were more accepting of things I have done, I would feel . . .
I am becoming more aware of . . .
Achievement. If you are someone who has been furloughed and you’re not drowning in home schooling, give yourself a project or goals to meet. This doesn’t have to be a huge unachievable task, like learning Russian or landscaping your garden, but even small achievable daily tasks that feel realistic. Tick them off, notice how this makes you feel and then reward yourself with self-care (wine – joking not joking) once you have completed or achieved them.
Humble brag. This is the opportunity to chat yourself up (I’m not even kidding) This is a tool I personally use whenever I feel my self-esteem has taken a bit of a bashing. At the end of each day, write 3-5 things that you did brilliantly, are proud of or affected others in a positive way. For instance, today I demonstrated great patience in home schooling literacy and am proud of the Tik Tok dance routine I performed brilliantly to my 33 followers (Savage – a personal fave).
Manifestation Board. This can be done on Pinterest or you can get all blue peter with sticky back plastic and a piece of card - equally if you’re not that creative, you can brainstorm, pen to paper. This is a tool where you gather hopes and dreams and then hopefully manifest everything you want from your life; career, relationship, environment, sense of self. (Mine has lots of emeralds and yachts on it – a girl can dream) Perhaps manifest the life you are going to start living once lockdown is over.
Take Responsibility. People that enjoy a high level of self esteem have an active orientation to life rather than a passive one. They take full responsibility for their hopes and dreams, and they do not hang about waiting for others to fulfil their wishes. So, think of all the areas you can take responsibility, your choices, your time, your consciousness, your self-care, your relationship, your health, your happiness, your life. Ultimately, it is your life so take control.
Live Authentically. The most corrosive aspect to our self-esteem are not the lies we tell but the lies we live. This is when we pretend a love we do not feel, when we pretend an indifference we do not feel, when we present ourselves as less than we are, where we pretend to feel anything that goes against our personal values. Often the conversations we avoid having with others and ourselves are the ones we should be having most of all. So perhaps take this time on lockdown to reflect on that and identify areas in which you can show up more authentically. Good self-esteem demands congruence; in short, the inside must match and balance the outside.
Compassion. This is for yourself as well as others. I want you to give yourself compassion for who you are today, who you were when you did that thing you’re not so proud of, your teenage self, the version of you that didn’t know better at the time. Forgive and hold yourself tenderly, with dignity and with heart. We are all doing the best we can and that is worth noting now more than ever.
I know its hard right now and for so many of us life is changing at an alarming rate, but we must remember that self esteem is not determined by material success, by our physical appearance, popularity contests or any aspect not under our volitional control. In fact, it is actually defined by our rationality, honesty and integrity – all of which we are all responsible for no matter what is going on in the world. If you possess these, no matter the circumstances, you win.
We are all in it together and I am happy to help in any way that I can. Please do contact me free of charge via email should you need to Danielle@lionesslifecoaching.co.uk