When you are suffering from a day that can be tough on your self-esteem or has thrown your confidence or feelings of self-assurance for a loop, there are some ways to get back in the “flow.” Avoiding your feelings, or letting these thoughts take over your mind, just makes things worse. Taking a page from Marsha Linehan’s Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Manual (DBT) and using Intrapersonal Effectiveness Skills can help, if you know how to make them work for you.
DBT Skills to Help You Like Yourself
Interpersonal skills focus on your relationship with someone else, but intrapersonal is the relationship you have with yourself. This is the crux of building healthy self-esteem.
The SACRED self is a skill that many DBT skills trainers don’t always utilize, and from my personal experience many clients find it hard to use. However, it’s so important and invaluable when trying to like yourself more. Therefore I’m going to make them a bit more approachable as it can allow you to slowly grow into liking, even loving yourself more. Each takes time to master, so don’t rush. Just pick one at a time that feels right for you.
Like Yourself More with SACRED Self Skills
Use the acronym SACRED to remember this skill.
Softness with Self. The DBT version says that when you are being hard on yourself, with words or actions, agree to be softer and use a gentle tone. You have to be able to distinguish between your positive and negative thoughts. Many clients report that the self-deprecating or harshness of this rigid voice reminds them of a mean friend from the past, a strict or invalidating parent during childhood, or moody boss. It is a voice that belittles or judges them. When you can identify this voice or these thoughts, you are one step closer to being gentle. You can begin to take a break, get mindful, and change your tune after you identify it. Some clients listen to a guided meditation or video to help with changing this.
Attributes, Find Five Positives. This can be really hard. DBT says find five things you can recognize as positive about yourself and that you really believe, even when other things fall apart. When you experience signs of low self-esteem, you may be thinking “I don’t like anything about myself.” Therefore find a few things, five if you can, that you have done in the past (accomplishments or goals met), physical attributes, skills you have, or even a hobby that you think you do well.
One client told me she likes her eyes and is a good listener. Other people talk to her about their problems. We extended to say that she is also a trustworthy person if others are confiding in her and has a positive presence. She could agree to this too.
Create a Kind Environment. This week, I have been tweeting about the kind things I am doing for my body and mind. DBT says when you are around positive people, you treat yourself with respect. Even creating a space in your home, your purse or wallet or desk can be reflective of being kind to yourself. For me, cleaning up my desk and organizing papers is a kind act that helps me later in the day. I am respecting myself. Eating foods that enhance my health, rather than foods that upset my stomach, is a kind thing to do for myself. Think about how you would treat someone else you care about, then ask yourself, “Am I doing that for me?”
Radical Self-Acceptance. I know, if you could accept yourself, you wouldn’t even be reading this. And, honestly, most people can’t accept themselves all the time. So rather than compare or try to emulate Buddha, notice areas where you are beating yourself up. “I’m not getting over an old relationship” or “This day feels hopeless.” Accept that this is how you feel in the moment and keep pushing forward. (Read more about radical acceptance.)
“Acceptance doesn’t have to mean approval or agreement but simply acknowledging what is.” According to DBT principles, this is the definition of acceptance. Right now, if your mind can move towards acceptance, the less power the negative thought has. Compare how you may accept someone in similar circumstances and notice how you would accept them. Try this on yourself.
Deeply Like Yourself. Again, clients complain of having very little to like about themselves. This piece can be a day-to-day shift, noticing what parts of yourself you like, what do you enjoy, what did you feel you did well that day. You are unique, what did you do today that reflects it. Focusing of feelings of shame or that you don’t deserve to like yourself, is the negative mind taking over. A client who reportedly likes nothing about herself said that she went to a class that was enjoyable. We turned that into a statement she could believe, “I like that I was open to learning new things today.” or “I enjoy learning about dance and liked that I am open to taking classes.”
Try to like parts of yourself or your day a little more. Each day can bring you more awareness and self-confidence as you become open and mindful of your experience. Good Luck.
Take Good Care,
Emily is the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are.You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.