I’ve written before about the power of stories: the ones we tell ourselves, the ones others tell us, and the ones we absorb from our culture and society. What we glean from these stories about ourselves is crucial as it impacts our self-image, not only in relationship to others but most importantly as single human beings.
One of the toughest things to do is to break out of old messages that hold us back and keep us from valuing ourselves for who we are. To do this, we must always remember that we are the ultimate source of our own self-worth, our own value, and our own messages.
It All Starts and Ends with You
Your self-worth and self-esteem can be blown to smithereens or built on rock solid foundation simply by how you talk to yourself. Positive, truthful self-talk is crucial because it helps you boost your confidence and your mental health. I’m not talking about delusional always-happy mantras you say and don’t believe. I’m also not talking about messages around superficial things; I’m talking about developing self-talk that gets to the heart of you as a living being on this planet. That is, self-talk about you, your worth and your value are all independent of superficialities. It is independent of your car, where you live, how much money you make, or how “successful” you are.
You must tell yourself – and believe- that you are worthy
of love and respect by merely existing on this planet.
This is a reach for some of us because society teaches us to look for self-value by ranking external things like that car and that house, and how much money you make. It’s time to shift that conversation toward intrinsic, or internal, positive messages that transcend the physical. Here are some positive self-talk mantras you can use to start improving how you view yourself:
- I have value by being alive on this earth
- I contribute to the world around me simply by existing
- I am valuable for being me
- My life has meaning and purpose because I say it does
Powerful self-talk is talk that is self-affirming at a human level, regardless of the opinions of others. Try one of these mantras out starting today and repeat it to yourself each time you start doubting yourself.
Be the Observer and Be Curious
We often stay stuck in old stories around who we are and what we should want to be or do without even realizing it. Oh sure, some of those messages may make us irritated or sad, discouraged or despondent, but when we get in a rut, we sometimes feel we can’t get out. You’ll know when a story may have outgrown its welcome when you start feeling a certain way, usually a not so pleasant way, and it’s in those moments that you can become the observer and be curious about what those feelings are trying to tell you.
Being the observer of yourself (especially without judging yourself or beating yourself up) can be challenging. We get so caught up in emotion, the fight, the pushing away of the feelings because we want to avoid them, that we can’t always stick with the feeling long enough to ask “I wonder why this emotion is coming up right now?”
One thing that happens when the “icky” feelings surface is we blame another person or a situation for the feelings. Our feelings are our own; they are indicators that something is either wildly awesome or wildly not so awesome. Feelings just are; we are the one who assigns the meaning to them.
When you’re caught in a story that either needs to go or is starting to go stale, you can observe yourself, ask why you feel the way you do, and then ask yourself other questions such as:
- What would make me feel better right now?
- Why do I think I always have this feeling when x happens?
- What is another story I can tell myself about this situation or these circumstances?
- What is this situation trying to teach me?
- Why is this happening for me, not to me?
The last question in that list is crucial: why something is happening for you allows you to grow. It demands that you look at your situation with new eyes and write a new story to help you understand it, and yourself better. We’ll get to writing new stories in a moment, but for now, try to be the impartial observer of your life and work on staying curious when you find yourself confronted with both positive and not so positive messages.
Listen to Your Gut
Why is it that we ignore our inner voices so often? Why is it that we push our intuition aside in favor of the rational and acceptable choice? In a word, fear. We are afraid. We’re scared to follow what we know deep down is right, because it may look or sound crazy. And the looking and sounding crazy means that not only have we judged ourselves as crazy, but we feel sure others will judge us as looking and sounding crazy too.
Listening to your gut doesn’t mean you get to do everything you want to do and ignore the rest, it means that sometimes, you get to make tough choices that you know are right, even at the risk of disappointing or even losing a relationship with others. Listening to your gut implies that you already know the answer inside you and you don’t need external advice. You simply need to show up, get quiet, listen, and then honor that voice.
Knowing what stories still work for you and which may need to be shown the door becomes clearer (not necessarily easier mind you, you still may end up disappointing someone, just make sure it isn’t yourself) each time you honor your internal compass. By doing this, you move to a place of living with greater integrity and with that comes relief. The journey may not always be smooth, but you will be rewarded by living a life much more aligned with both your heart and your mind when you follow what you already know to be the right thing, right now.
Learning to Let Go
All-powerful you gets to decide how to let go of old stories. There’s the Band-Aid ripping “tear it right off; I’m now going to be x” method. Wow, sometimes that’s liberating! Just be kind to yourself if you backslide and fall back into old patterns around your story.
There’s also the Fade Away method of slowly distancing yourself from a story (or situation or person). This method gives you time to reflect on what still works, what doesn’t, and how you’d like to mash the two together and write a new story.
And then there’s the Float Forward method which allows you to begin a new story by surrounding yourself with others whose story you would like to emulate. Much like the Fade Away (which is distancing yourself), the Float Forward (which draws something near), gives you the chance to test out parts of the story and figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s all in preparation for writing something new which we’re going to do right now.
Writing New Stories
When you start writing new stories, especially about yourself, please include one of the earlier mantra statements in it, ideally right at the beginning. I’ll touch on this again: it’s so important to value yourself just for being you. Regardless of what you want to create, make sure it’s based on knowing that you are so incredibly valuable to our world, simply for being here.
If you’ve been repeatedly put down or harshly (or even subtly) judged, it will take patience and time to heal that hurt. Something to remember during that time of healing is that many times, the judgment of others is more about the other person and their hang-ups, vs. you and who you are. Affirmations to help manage judgment include:
- I understand that the judgment others have of me may be more about them than it is about me
- How I feel about myself and my dreams is solely up to me
- I have the power to write new, more self-affirming stories about who I am and what I do
- I choose how I let the words of others impact me
A final thing to think about when you rewrite an old story is how you want to feel. The messages we receive from others and that we tell ourselves impact us emotionally so think about how you feel now about your current story. Do you feel held back or oppressed? Frustrated or powerless? What would make you feel empowered, confident, excited, or motivated? What new message can you speak to yourself that is specific and affirming?
Embrace the power of your stories by knowing that they will impact how you start showing up, in the mirror each morning, and in the world each day. Humanity needs more people who are ready to try new things and make a difference, and that starts by what you tell yourself about who you are and the value you bring to every encounter you have with others.