This month, the month of love, we wanted to talk about taking a moment to reflect on the love you have for yourself. Sounds a bit silly and self-absorbed, right? Well loving yourself is SO important. Truly. There are so many articles out there that describe easy fixes for self-esteem and confidence, but there is no recipe for self-love. It is, however definitely something we should be addressing more often in a positive light. The purpose of this week’s article is to simply share my view and personal understanding of self-esteem. I hope to provide a spark of inspiration and get you thinking about the importance and impact of self-love.

You may think of self-confidence and self-esteem as interchangeable terms… they aren’t really. Self-confidence to me means confidence in my ability to do a task, while self-esteem relates to my overall perception of myself in any given situation. Make sense? Self-confidence is more situational-based, where self-esteem is a widespread, an overall idea. I tend to think of self-esteem more as self-appreciation; an understanding that no matter the outcome or current state of affairs, a general positive sense of self is maintained.

Now, I know this isn’t always easy and I am not speaking as an expert in this area. It’s usually VERY hard and everyone deals with this in some way or another. It’s common to feel down when you receive any sort of negative feedback, constructive or not. I think most of us have to work hard at giving ourselves a break from time to time. I try to be aware of my thoughts and include as many positive thoughts as I can in a day. Building your self-appreciation and learning to love yourself is a worth-while project – as it will make you a stronger, happier and a more successful individual.

Here are two key areas that you can use to focus on building self-appreciation:

1. Think of the Big Picture – Take a Step Back

When I was putting together my post-graduate application packages I received the best piece of advice from my Aunt, that not only helped me complete my applications, but also made me think about self-criticism. She told me to change my perspective by laying out all of my accomplishments and viewing them as if they were someone else’s. I was able to more clearly identify transferrable skills and think more critically about the importance of each experience. As my own worst critic, it was amazing to be able to feel such a strong sense of accomplishment, simply by stepping back and removing some personal pressures. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt!

I think mentally stepping back and observing from a different perspective is such an important thing to do from time to time. It is easy to get wrapped up in certain situations and get lost in them. I noticed this because I have an endless to-do list, as I’m sure most of you do as well. Once I’m finished a project or event, I just cross it off my list and move on to the next item. Revisit old projects that you’re proud of and recall times when you were pleased with something you accomplished!

Self-esteem is a careful balance of expectation, capability, achievements, happiness, and growth. Having a sense of the bigger picture and the value of each unique experience in your overall goal will give you a sense of what is important to work through and what is avoidable added stress. Learn to let go of these unnecessary added stressors.

2. Think Positively – Nurturing your Neurons

We now know that the brain keeps changing throughout our lives, if we give it the opportunities to do so. Throughout my university education, I have had the opportunity to take a variety of psychology and neuroscience courses that introduced me to the concept of synaptic, or neuroplasticity. This refers to the ever-changing state of the brain through learning processes that has changed the way neuroscientists study the human brain. When we are in a learning situation, experiencing anything new or different, communication cells in your brain are converted to a state of adaptability that promotes change. During this time, your brain makes countless connections, some of which are unnecessary. This is where practice comes into play. When you practice a skill, whether physically or mentally, you are refining and strengthening your brain’s communication to carryout that task. If you do not practice that skill, your brain will view those connections as useless and they will weaken. By simply visualizing a skill, you are improving! Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

The reason I’m telling you this is because scientists have been connecting this knowledge to happiness and self-esteem, as they can be considered practiced skills. By viewing a situation from a positive perspective, we begin to train our brains to make it a more automatic reaction in the future. From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense that our brains would make us pay close attention to the negative things in our environments as a survival tactic. However, by doing this, your brain hinders your ability to calmly assess the situation and consider your options. By thinking positively you can actually strengthen brain communication and produce optimistic thinking more easily—there truly is neurochemical and biological power in positive thinking!

To learn about how our team incorporates stress management into the treatment of digestive distress, click here.

We also recommend watching this hilarious TEDtalk of the importance of positive psychology from a man who studies happiness for a living: click here

Everyone is unique, and different approaches will work for different people. Here is a short list of some things that help our team to manage stress and keep the mind focused on the bigger picture:

Write it Out:

Lay everything out in order to make a plan and ensure you don’t forget something important.

Make achievable/flexible To-Do Lists:

Ensure that your list is achievable and you have small, specific steps for big projects. Make it flexible and schedule in breaks.

Talk About it

It may help to take 10 to 15 minutes per day to talk about stress and get advice from close friends and family.

Put Yourself Together

When you look confident, you’re more likely to feel confident. I’m not saying to switch your focus to your looks, but if you pay attention to your appearance, especially your posture and body language, it may influence how you feel internally.

Keep a Journal

Journaling is a great way to get out your feelings and emotions no matter what you’re feeling. It’s a useful tool to help you understand what you were really upset about, so you can identify and deal with the real problem … once you’ve calmed down a little 😉 Usually, the problem will seem a lot more manageable when you revisit it!

Take a Break

Give yourself time to unwind, de-stress, and enjoy whatever it is you like doing! Treat yourself often with something that feels like “me time” whether it’s reading a book, taking a bath, going for a walk, listening to music – whatever works for you!

 

I hope that I’ve been able to provide a way of thinking about self-esteem that revolves around changes in perception. We are all capable of achieving strong self-love, but like everything else, it just takes practice.

 

Much love and good eating,

Stephanie