Positive thinking builds self-esteem

WORKING WOMAN

September 19, 1993|By Niki Scott

Niki Scott is on vacation. This is a previously released column.

They attack when we're most vulnerable, thrive in darkness and loneliness, are fed by the negative messages we received as children. They're the words that scare us the most, the names we call ourselves, the fears we keep deep inside.

"You're lazy. Selfish. Immature. You're fat. You're a nag."

They're monkeys on our backs, these negative, self-critical labels. They steal our optimism. They sap our strength.

"You're untalented. Uninspired. Unimportant. You don't know what you're doing."

They torment us most when we're already frightened or tired or sad and are most powerful when our self-esteem is at a low ebb, or when we've made a mistake or failed in some way, or when we already feel lost and lonely.

The best defense against the self-torturing, self-defeating names call ourselves is to have had a happy childhood, one that gave us self-es

teem -- the sure knowledge that although we may make mistakes, we're basically good people.

The next best defense is to replace the old, critical messages with new, positive images. We can't control how we feel -- and shouldn't try -- but we can control what we think.

We can defend ourselves from our own negative labels just as we would defend a child who was being called names -- say to ourselves, just as we would say to her name-callers: "Stop that! What you're saying isn't true -- or fair," then substitute positive thoughts about ourselves for those old, old negative ones.

The more we think positive, strengthening things, the less chance our negative, scary thoughts will have to take hold.

Likewise, when we're beating ourselves up over a stupid mistake, we can picture that same little girl -- innocent, vulnerable, in need of protection and nurturing -- then imagine what we'd say to her if she'd made a mistake.

We wouldn't label her. We wouldn't call her names. And if anyone else picked on her so unfairly, we'd put our arms around her, reassure her, and tell her not to listen to anyone who said such mean, unfair things about her.

In the same way, we can nurture and protect the child that resides in each of us and learn to parent her as we would any other child -- with kindness, patience and love.

We can surround ourselves with people who approve of us, respect us and have confidence in us. No one else can give us self-esteem, but when we're feeling frightened and unsure, the last thing we need around us is negative, critical people.

And if these measures don't work, and calling ourselves names is a common occurrence rather than an occasional one, we can seek help from the qualified counselors who are available in virtually every community today, many of whom base their fees on clients' ability to pay.

) Universal Press Syndicate

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