Can I Please have Another Helping of Self-Esteem? Understanding Self-Estseem and How it Develops

self-esteem mirroe

 

People tend to think of self-esteem almost as if it is a product you can buy. Perhaps it is because of all the advertising which shows people smiling and feeling good when they use the products. Or, they think of it as a condition, like needing more iron in their diet or getting more rest.

Self-esteem is the result or outcome of one’s relationship with one’s self.  It is a by-product of how a person treats him or herself.

 

How do people develop a relationship with self?

Children are not born having a relationship with self.  It starts with their relationship with others.  Parents do things to them and with them.  Babies and toddlers respond and react to the ways in which they are handled and cared for.  Over time they develop a relationship with self from how they are treated by others. The quality of those interactions is a major factor in determining the quality of relationship a child develops with himself.

Children are not born loving themselves.  They learn they are loveable (or not) by the experiences of being loved by those that look after them.  At first, love comes externally. If they feel loveable, over time children internalize the love they experience and in this way they learn to love themselves.

 How do children determine whether they are loved and valued or not?

Scenario:

Billy knew he was loved.  As a baby, his mother’s eyes lit-up when she saw him.  She talked to him a lot.  She was always affectionate with him and took very good care of him.

His father smiled at him frequently.  He spent time with him: playing roughhousing, sports and games.  He taught him many things about the world and the way it worked.  If Billy had any questions or problems, he knew he could always go to either parent. They stood up for him whenever they thought he needed support and gave him constant guidance. His parents did not have much money, yet they created a safe fun environment.

Billy felt loved, valued, understood, protected, and accepted.  He felt cherished, just because he existed. He felt he belonged in his family. He felt good about himself, confident in himself and his abilities.  To him, the world was an amazing place.

Scenario 2

Sammy was not sure if he was loved or not.  He had a sad mother. She took care of him, but she rarely smiled at him. She often did not look at him directly as she cared for him.  She was impatient, yelling a lot. She was seldom affectionate, and she seemed to resent the time she spent with him.  She read a lot.  Sometimes she was okay, even telling him she loved him. But Sammy did not feel loved.

Dad was away half the time, and when he was home he was tired and distracted.  He did not have time or energy for Sammy.  When he heard his parents arguing, it was always about him.  He felt like it was his fault, that he was bad, but he wasn’t sure how. The family had money, and it seemed to Sammy that money is what mattered, not him.

Sammy did not feel loved or valued. He felt he was a burden on his mother and father.  He tried to be as good as he could to please his parents, but it rarely worked.  He didn’t really feel he belonged to this family, more like he was visiting and it would soon end.  He did not feel good about himself.   He was unsure of how to be and how to act.  The world was a scary place that he had to figure out on his own.

Each child comes to conclusions about themselves from their experiences of interactions with parents and others in their childhood. These conclusions may be accurate or inaccurate. Children do not even realize they come to conclusions; they are just living their lives. Some adults report specific memories of decisions they deliberately made as a young child. But most of the time, these conclusions are made without realizing it, get buried in the subconscious and operate out of awareness.

When a child has felt loved, valued and connected to the significant people in his life, he is more likely to love and value himself, that is, he is more likely to have high self- esteem. Conversely, when a child experiences lack of love and belonging, he is less likely to love and value himself, that is, he is more likely to have low self-esteem.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Safety First: How to Reduce Kids Fighting when Driving in the Car.

driving

 

Safety is first and foremost when driving a vehicle.

Fighting and goofing around are distracting to the driver.  It is also dangerous for the drivers to be upset and yelling at their passengers.  The best thing to do is develop a strategy for safe driving.

When my kids were young, we spent a lot of time driving from one activity to another.  We lived several miles from most activities so there was lots of time spent in the car.  When they would fight or noisily goof around, I found it distracting.  Yelling didn’t work, and besides I hated yelling and nagging at them.

I decided to stop trying to make them stop.  I developing a strategy.  I told them it was not safe for me to drive when there is fighting going on.  I told them I would pull over to the side of the road as soon as it was safe to do so and wait until they stopped.  They didn’t believe me, but I knew they wouldn’t until I followed through on what I had said I’d do.

So I began to do it.  At first it happened quite a lot.  I kept my word – I pulled over as soon as it was safe to do so and waited until they quieted down.  In the beginning it seemed like a game to them.  I was careful to keep my body language neutral and matter-of-fact, no eye rolling, no heavy sighs, no tense clipped speech.  One time, they took a particularly long time to quiet down.  So instead of “losing it” I stepped out of the vehicle and stood beside it.  I never left the boys alone in the vehicle.  When they finally quieted down, I got back in the car and without saying a word, started driving again.  They didn’t like just sitting in the car and not getting where they were going whether it was school, soccer or home.  So they started quieting down sooner.  Eventually, when they realized I was slowing down to pull off to the side of the road, they would quickly quiet down.  Without saying a word, I would pull back onto the road and speed up.

Somewhere along the way, it became a non-issue, without anyone discussing it.  Being noisy in the car just seemed to hardly happen at all.

This was accomplished without me yelling, getting upset, reasoning, pleading, nagging, threatening, guilt-tripping, being impatient or getting angry.  Having a strategy really helped me remain calm.  I felt in control of the situation in a way that was positive for the boys.

NOTE:

Consistency when carrying out a strategy is imperative to its success.

It may take some time for the plan to take effect so be prepared to be patient.  The plan may even have to be tweaked a bit.

The attitude used to implement the strategy is also key to a successful outcome.

The same strategy used with an angry negative delivery could turn into a power struggle.  This could make the dynamics between all persons involved worse.

 

Strategies on positively influencing others’ tardiness by changing your own behaviour .

 

look at watch

When getting along with others, there are times when things do not go well.  You address the person(s) involved with the hope and expectation of coming to a mutually satisfying resolution.  Lots of time this works.   An example is choosing a designated driver when drinking and driving is involved.

However, sometimes it does not work, or works for a while and then reverts back.  When the situation is ongoing, a different approach is needed.  Developing strategies is one way to address the situation.

Strategy Development:

The goal of the strategy is to change the relationship in a way that enhances the relationship (win-win).

The strategy is to provide a reasonable consequence that motivates positive change.

The person(s) developing the strategy choose behaviours that are congruent with who she or he is.

Consistency is imperative to success.  You need to be consistent (in this case leave after 30 minutes) in carrying out the strategy to avoid giving mixed messages to the other person.

NOTE:  How the strategy is carried out is critical to its effectiveness.  The delivery and the intent needs to be in a warmly matter-of-fact attitude with the genuine goal of enhancing the relationship(s). If it is carried out with anger or a negative “I’ll show you.” attitude, the consequence intended turns into punishment. This will backfire and likely destroy relationships.

Developing a strategy for lateness:

Occasional lateness is not a problem.  Life is life and sometimes tardiness cannot be helped or people just mess up.  The problem occurs when someone is consistently late and will not respond positively to complaints about it.  Usually they dismiss or discount the complaints with accusations of over-reacting and over sensitivity.

Cynthia’s friend Rhonda is chronically late.  Cynthia decides how long she is willing to wait past the agreed upon time without getting resentful. She decides on 30 minutes.  For example, if they agree to meet at 6:30 pm, Cynthia is willing to wait until 7:00 pm without being resentful.  After that, if Rhonda has still not come, she is going to carry out her Plan B for the evening.

The next time Cynthia and Rhonda agree to meet up, Cynthia tells her in a friendly manor that she is OK with waiting up to 30 minutes longer than the time they agree on.  If Rhonda arrives within that time frame Cynthia expresses her appreciation.  If Rhonda is longer than 30 minutes, Cynthia leaves and carries out her plans on her own.  Cynthia is to carry on her relationship with Rhonda as usual.  She is not to complain or explain to Rhonda.  If Rhonda asks her what happened, Cynthia is to say in a friendly manner she waited the 30 minutes,and then left because she was not sure Rhonda would come.  If Rhonda is angry, Cynthia is not to get caught up in her anger.  Cynthia can again express that their relationship is important to her.  Cynthia has let Rhonda know she will act on her word.  Cynthia no longer feels powerless; she is no longer resentful.

How Rhonda responds or reacts lets Cynthia know if Rhonda values their relationship as much as she does.  If Rhonda values their relationship and wants to be sure she meets up with Cynthia, she will be there within the 30-minute window, maybe even on time.  If Rhonda continues to be too late, Cynthia will realize that Rhonda does not value their relationship.  She may choose not to be friends any more.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

 

 

 

Do you have a need to be right?

 

guide

It is OK to want to be right.  It is OK to like to be right.  It is a problem to need to be right.

Scenario:

Cynthia was upset.  She was disappointed in her friend, Rhonda, because last night for the umpteenth time, Rhonda had kept her waiting for over an hour before finally showing up.  Cynthia called her friend, Brenda, to talk about her frustration and hurt.  She told Brenda that she has talked to Rhonda about her always being late but it has made no difference.  Each time Rhonda would accuse Cynthia of over-reacting and making a big deal over nothing. Rhonda believed she was doing nothing wrong.  Cynthia felt disrespected.  Brenda suggested that she stop trying to explain and reason with Rhonda and change what she is doing.  But Cynthia said she believed that talking things through was the right thing to do so she saw no reason to change since she was doing nothing wrong.  Brenda agreed that talking things through was the right thing to do, however, that was clearly not working for Cynthia.  Brenda asked Cynthia if she had a need to be right?  Cynthia said, “No, but I have a need to be respected”.  Brenda suggested that instead of talking to Rhonda, Cynthia develop a strategy for the next time they meet.  Together, Brenda and Cynthia developed a strategy with Cynthia standing up for herself while maintaining and enhancing the relationship.  Example of strategy:http://decisionquiz.com/blog/2013/01/28/strategies-on-positively-influencing-others-tardiness-by-changing-your-own-behaviour/

How do you know if you have a need to be right?

  • You feel threatened.
  • You are rigid.
  • You feel like you’re in a battle and you need to win.
  • You back up your position with authority.  (My religious leader agrees with me.  We always did it this way in our family, My mother/father says I’m right. My therapist says I’m right. Your best friend thinks I’m right. The Bible/Koran says it is so. etc)
  • You accuse the other person(s) of needing to be right and you want to prove them wrong.

 

How do you know if you do not have a need to be right?

  • You do not feel threatened.
  • You are flexible.
  • You stay focused on the issue without any argument or hassle, just the discussion (could be a heated discussion).
  • For you, who is right or wrong is a non issue.  Addressing the issue is the focus for you.
  • You recognize other(s) have a need to be right and it does not bother you.  You can let them be right.  It is no way makes you feel unimportant or wrong.
  • You focus on the issue and find a way that works for you.  They feel they are right and that is perfectly OK for you.
  • You use their need to be right to get a mutually satisfactory resolution.
  • You do not need to back up your position with authority figures or symbols.
  • You think in different terms than right or wrong. Such as, whether this is working or not.
  • You say things like “You might be right, yet your solution does not work for me.  Let’s find a solution that works for both of us.

 

Think of rules as guidelines that are flexible and not carved in stone.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

 

 

 

 

Letting go of Thinking in Terms of Right or Wrong

January 22, 2013 By Bea Mackay Comments are Off Emotions, Relationship Resources

wrong way

 

Many people want to do the right thing. Perhaps even more people focus on trying not to do the wrong thing.

The problem is, it is not always easy to know what the right thing is.  People disagree on what is right and what is wrong.  What is right in one culture is wrong in another culture.  For example in some cultures it is considered disrespectful to be late and in others it is considered rude to be on time. What is right for one person may not not be right for another. Times change. What is right at one point in time may not be right at another point in time. Frequently, we get new information that teaches us what we used to think was right is now proven to be wrong.

Also, being in the right is not always a good thing. For example, if you’re on the highway and get injured or killed in an accident, it does you no good if you are in the right and the other driver is in the wrong.

If you’re not going to think in terms of what is right and what is wrong, then how do you think?

Instead of asking if this is right or wrong, ask different questions,

Is this productive or not productive?
Is this healthy or unhealthy?
Is this helpful or unhelpful?
Will this make me happy or unhappy?
Is what I’m doing working or not working?
Is this constructive or not constructive?
Will this make things better or make things worse?
Is this respectful or disrespectful?

and others.

By asking different questions, it becomes clearer what to do or not do.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Getting started in Yoga

January 16, 2013 By Bea Mackay Comments are Off Emotions, Personal Stories

 

yoga

For years I knew of yoga but I did not learn about it.  I thought it was just about stretching and nothing more.  I like action so it had no appeal for me.  About five years ago I decided to try it.  There was a yoga studio below my office and it couldn’t be more convenient.

The first few sessions I found very tedious.  I kept looking at the clock on the wall –  only 5 minutes have gone by.  My mind was full of chatter.  I continued and looked at the clock again – only two minutes had gone by.  However, I kept paying attention to the instructor, listening to her voice directing me to my body.

It took about five sessions of listening to the instructor and paying attention to my body before something happened.  Then, unexpectedly, in one session I felt a shift.  I started to yawn and continued to yawn throughout the session.  I experienced time differently.  Time seemed to expand, and yet go by quickly.  Time ceased to matter.  The chatter in my mind stopped. My body was the focus in a way I’d never experienced before.  At the end of the session I fell asleep and the instructor woke me up by gently shaking my leg.  I felt refreshed and restored.

Now when I do yoga I know that to get the experience of yoga, I focus on my body.  Sometimes it takes me longer than others to make the shift.  But I know when it happens because I start to yawn and the sense of time changes.

I realized from this experience that yoga is a state of being.  By focusing on my body in the moment, I shifted from one part of my brain (thinking brain) to a different part (sensing brain).  I achieved the state of yoga through my body.  Once I experienced this state of being, I gained a whole new understanding and respect for yoga.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

 

 

 

Let the signals your body sends you be your guide to action.

January 12, 2013 By Bea Mackay Comments are Off Emotions, Parenting, Personal Stories

ExhaustionPeople tend to think what they experience, positive or negative, comes “out of the blue”.  But usually there are signals along the way that they do not recognize.

The first time I ever experienced exhaustion was after having my first baby.  I had no idea what exhaustion felt like.  I had had a difficult birth, spent 8 days in the hospital, and when I got home I just expected myself to carry on as I had before the birth.  One afternoon a neighbour came over to visit and see the new baby.  She asked me how I was, and I responded that I was fine.  We talked some more, and she asked me again how I was.  Again, I responded that I was fine.  The third time she asked me I started to cry and couldn’t stop.  I had no idea what was wrong with me.  I got her to leave, and then I thought I’d go grocery shopping because I knew that out in public I’d stop crying.  Well, I had difficulty paying the cashier for the groceries because the tears were rolling down my face and I could not talk.  She couldn’t give me my change fast enough.  Once I got home I had to acknowledge that something was wrong with me, and it took me a while to realize it was exhaustion.

Because of that experience, I learned that my body gives me signals about my level of fatigue.  But because I had never been exhausted before, I did not recognize the signals.  Even if I had noticed them, I would not have known what to do about it.

What I learned about myself.  When I’m somewhat tired my left eyelid twitches, and when I’m very tired, I get a specific type of nausea.  These two signals now guide me on when I need to rest.  The eyelid twitch is a ‘heads-up’ to plan to get some rest soon, and the nausea is strong message I need to rest ASAP.  I have learned to respect these signals and act on them.  It prevents me from getting to the state of exhaustion again.

Pay attention to the sensations in your body and learn what they mean.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

I’m back! Time for me to continue blogging.

January 4, 2013 By Bea Mackay 2 comments Personal Stories

It’s been awhile. Let me explain my absence. I’d written a manual for therapists on how to work with client’s who are conflicted with self or others. In February 2011, I found a publisher, Gerda Wever, founder of Writeroompress Press. Once we agreed to work together, the work began in ernest.

I already had two workshop proposals, based upon the material of my manual, accepted for the World Congress of Psychotherapy to be held in Sydney, Australia in August, 2011. Gerda believed we could have the book published in time for me to take with me to the conference. I really liked having a deadline.

There was still editing to be done on the manual. I continued to work with my editor whom I’d been working with prior to finding Gerda. I was working full time yet had to spend a lot of time editing and re-writing the manual. I worked late nights and went to work in the days. I had done this when I was at university and didn’t think I’d be able to do it again. But having a deadline is very motivating, so I was up for it. I really wanted to have the book to take with me to the conference. I was working on right up to the time I left on the plane.

I was so busy that something had to go. It was blogging that I put on hold.

Next post, why it took me so long to get back.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

Hate your job?

April 15, 2011 By Bea Mackay Comments are Off Work