Anxiety, Counselling, Mindfulness, Self Care, Therapy

Increasing Self-Esteem and Creating Boundaries

Many struggles with lowered self-esteem, poor body image, or lack of self-love. You are not alone!

Oftentimes working on yourself and promoting self-growth and self-compassion can be the best way to go about your life issues. It gives perspective and more room for planning, making important decisions, and working on your relationships. When we are in a good place ourselves the issues start to seem easier to manage. Approaching problems from the inside most of the time can give better results rather than trying to adjust to the world around us.

The most control we have is over ourselves rather than over other people or settings. Inner power is the most potent force which you can use in your daily life.

How to gain more confidence and self-esteem?

First of all, one needs to understand that we are all equal and worthy of love as human beings. Also, that self-actualization and enhancement don’t mean possessions, performance, and others’ opinions of us. Self-esteem and self-love do not come from those things, they can come only from within us.

Toxic Self-Esteem Sources

There are three types of toxic self-esteem. We develop those mechanisms as we grow up and look up to our role models.

  1. Performance-based self-esteem: we perceive ourselves as worthy of love only when we perform adequately to our own standards, if not addressed this type can develop into workaholism. (this type is very prominent in men)
  2. Possession-based self-esteem: we perceive ourselves as worthy of love based on what we have and what is our social status, this approach can develop into greed and devaluation of other people. If you think that only having enough possessions or having a trophy wife is important in life then you are promoting possession-based self-esteem. (this type is also very prominent in men)
  3. Others-based self-esteem: we perceive ourselves as worthy of love only if others think we are, if this type of thinking is not addressed it can develop into codependence. (this type is very prominent in women)

There are three types of toxic self-esteem. We develop those mechanisms as we grow up and look up to our role models.

  1. Performance-based self-esteem: we perceive ourselves as worthy of love only when we perform adequately to our own standards, if not addressed this type can develop into workaholism. (this type is very prominent in men)
  2. Possession-based self-esteem: we perceive ourselves as worthy of love based on what we have and what is our social status, this approach can develop into greed and devaluation of other people. If you think that only having enough possessions or having a trophy wife is important in life then you are promoting possession-based self-esteem. (this type is also very prominent in men)
  3. Others-based self-esteem: we perceive ourselves as worthy of love only if others think we are, if this type of thinking is not addressed it can develop into codependence. (this type is very prominent in women)

Here are some useful exercises to help you develop a healthy sense of self-love and self-esteem and boundaries.

Boosting Self-Confidence

Find a comfortable position. Close your eyes, breathe naturally and sink into a deep state of relaxation. Think back to your earliest memories of childhood, to a time when you achieved something that surprised you and made you feel happy. Perhaps it was a physical feat, such as jumping over something that had seemed impossible for you at that age, finding your first friend, or being brave when you went to school for the first time. Our memories of childhood are usually vague, but everyone can remember something significant from their early years if they think hard enough. Trust that something will come to the surface and it will, for everything that you have done and everything that you have said has been imprinted on the subconscious. The important thing is that it should be something that pleased you, not necessarily something for which you received approval. When you have a scene in mind, scan it for details. Take in as much of the sounds, smells, and tastes as you possibly can. If you feel yourself becoming emotional, let the feelings flow because it is obviously something that needs to be expressed and cleared. Now scan forward slowly to another incident in your childhood when you made another step forward in understanding or proving your physical ability. Perhaps it was learning to swim or ride a bike. Can you remember if you were anxious about doing this, or maybe you doubted your ability? Can you also recall the feeling when you succeeded? Continue like this through school, further education, your first job, relationships, setting up home, and other incidents to the present moment. Let the images come to you naturally and then, when you are ready, come back to waking consciousness.

Acknowledging Your Achievements

You can use this as a separate meditation, or as an extension of the previous one. If starting afresh, relax as in the previous exercise, then start to visualize doing what you would like to do if you had the time, money, and opportunity to do whatever you wanted.

Indulge your fantasy because it may reveal that what you subconsciously desire is not actually unobtainable at all. Often our dreams of unlimited wealth and success hide modest aspirations such as having more time for ourselves, the courage to act spontaneously, or the need for new surroundings. Let the images flow naturally and then, when it feels right, come back to waking consciousness.

Self-Portrait

Get into your chosen position. Close your eyes, and relax into a regular rhythm of breathing. Visualize yourself in an art gallery standing before a full-length portrait of yourself as you were when you were really happy. Take a long look at yourself and consider what you see in those eyes, in the facial features, and in the way that you hold yourself. What type of character has the artist captured? Now you hear approaching footsteps. A small crowd of friends, family members, and past acquaintances has come to admire your portrait and tell you why they love or respect you. There is no need to be self-conscious or to display false modesty. In this dimension, everyone speaks the truth. This occasion is not the place for criticism, but for appreciation and deserving praise. This is not an empty gesture, but a demonstration of genuine affection. See each person in turn as they approach the portrait and listen as they declare your qualities to the group. You may be surprised by what they reveal. Others often admire us for qualities that we may take for granted. When everyone has spoken their piece takes another long look at the portrait. Has it changed? If so, in what way? In the light of what has been said by your friends and family do you think that you have been too self-critical in the past? Have you been driving yourself too hard rather than treating yourself as you would your best friend? Now consider, if all these people love you for the reasons that they have stated, then how can you not love yourself? Look at the portrait for the last time and in your own words affirm that you are a loving, intelligent, creative person. Find other thoughts that come to mind. Use whatever attributes you can recall other people saying Then, when you have finished, gradually return to waking consciousness.

Create Your Affirmations

People often underestimate the power of positive intention and words. The meaning behind the words is what is so powerful about them. By repeating certain phrases to ourselves we can reprocess our brain. Doing the affirmations in front of a mirror is even more influential. Even though you might be feeling not up for the task or your self-esteem is not in the right place at that certain time, DO IT ANYWAY!

Here are some guidelines for choosing your own affirmations.
  • They should be short, simple, unambiguous, and phrased to emphasize the positive. ‘I have a fulfilling and well-paid job with time for myself in the evenings and at weekends,’ will create the right image in the subconscious, whereas ‘I don’t want to work long hours in a poorly paid job,’ will only serve to reinforce 7 your frustration.
  • Always express affirmations in the present tense, as if what you want already exists. If you use the future tense you are implying that it might be conditional. You need to impress upon the subconscious that you expect your wish to be fulfilled.
  • If you feel some resistance and you have checked that there is no ambiguity in the phrase you are using, persist, because if it is a long-term problem or attitude that you are trying to overcome it is likely that the ego will oppose it, just as it will have done when you first started to establish the habit of meditation.
  • Reinforce the affirmation with visualization on the same theme, but be careful that you do not sketch in too many details, otherwise, you risk putting limitations on what is right for you.
  • Examples: ‘I am on my true path and every day leads me nearer to my true place. I am complete and perfectly acceptable as I am. ‘I live in an abundant Universe and there is plenty for everybody’ I enjoy perfect health and peace of mind.’ Tam fulfilling the purpose of my life which is becoming clearer to me each day.’ ‘I am calm and “centered”.’ ‘l exist in the present, I let go of the past.

Art Therapy for Positive Body-Image

Art therapy can be a very powerful tool, especially for people who like to express themselves by being creative in any way. If you do not think of yourself as a creator or artist it is ok too! It is about getting out on the paper. The point of art therapy is not to create a ‘beautiful piece of art’ but to express your emotions and thoughts in a different way. You might surprise yourself! Because the mean of communication is different from the one we use every day (speaking) the novelty can create a great outlet for hidden emotional parts.

 

Body of Positivity:

Create an outline of your body (if you want to go big, make a real size outline using your body on a bigger piece of paper!). Fill the inside with positive affirmations, images, things that make you happy.

 

Your Body-Image:

Draw what a body image is for you. I know it can be perceived as a vague explanation but it gives you a lot of space for creativity.

Think: Why my body image is important to me? What influences my body image? When and where do I feel a boost in my self-esteem and positive body image?

It can be a drawing of you and external factors or something completely different! By knowing what influences us and what is important in the concept of a body image it is easier to address that issue.

Creating Boundaries Exercise

It will be a visualisation exercise that you can use at any moment of your daily life.

First, take a couple of deeper breaths. Ground yourself and think of the most beautiful place in the world. What can you see, hear, smell, feel, or taste?

Now imagine that there is something that you need a boundary for. Imagine a wall. It can be a brick wall but it also could be a wall of flowers or any other equivalent. This wall has a looking glass you can see through it. Nothing gets to you through that wall, you and your emotions are safe behind it.

You can also relax this wall, practice tightening the fortifications, and relaxing them.

You can put up this wall any time you want and any time it is needed.

Pulling up the wall doesn’t mean that you are not hearing or seeing the situation unfolding in front of you. You are still an active observer. You can listen to people’s opinions and statements without those words getting to you. You can acknowledge them as opinions and not make them a part f your inner world.

When you will have sufficient self-esteem you will be able to create good and strong boundaries. Boundaries come from our innate sense of differentiation from others. We can acknowledge others and their statements but differentiate those from our opinions. Boundaries are protecting us from getting emotionally hurt but are allowing us to see things objectively and still listen in.

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