Originally published on WoMo
Tips from Anna Libel, personal development coach
Anna Libel is our fellow citizen, who lives in Iceland. She is the author of individual and group practice programs; she also runs a blog on personal development. Self-esteem, she believes, is one of the cornerstones of personal growth. But what if you are sensitive to criticism? Here are some personal confessions and practical advice.
I have been asked many times how I can stay calm despite negative comments about me, not to mention turning them into jokes. I am Ukrainian and have been living abroad for 10 years. I held positions more typical of local men older than me, engaged in social activities that were not understood by the diaspora. There were plenty of reasons for criticism. Criticism is painful, often inadequate. These were comments that were not so much about me as about opponents. However, while I learned to distinguish constructive criticism, for some reason I listened to the comments of the opposite nature and focused on them.
I have been combining the life of a young mother and an entrepreneur in Iceland for six months now. I coach several clients from different countries, I learn a lot about doing online business. I used to be able to leave work in the office and disconnect from tasks until the next working day. Now the desk is in the living room, the list of tasks is constantly spinning in my head, I occasionally run away from my family to the toilet to write a business message from the phone. I’m afraid to burn out, but it’s hard to stop – no one but I will start a business. One day my mother said, “You don’t work nowadays.” Calmly, smiling, I explain that I actually work, and even earn a little money. I remind myself that my mother is proud of me – from time to time she admits it. In my mind I remember the feedback from clients who thank me almost every week. I know why I’m doing this.
There are days when you want to give up everything and go to work as a cleaner in a cafe or delivery man. But the statement always comes to mind: “A bad day does not mean that you have a bad life or that you are a bad person.” I am used to cheering for myself. On bad days, I automatically hug myself and confess my love. I know that this love is worth it, regardless of small failures or someone’s negative opinion of me.
Why we are too sensitive to criticism
We are taught from an early age to focus on achievements, cultivating self-confidence. Without success you are worthless, unworthy of respect, support, and love. Self-confidence is important, without it, it is difficult to dare to act, to fight for your ambitions. However, few people talk about the importance of high self-esteem, and for many this phrase has a negative connotation. Self-esteem is an awareness of the value of our personality, our knowledge that we deserve good in life, regardless of external factors. We all deserve respect, love, perception. When I value myself, criticism does not knock me off my feet but allows me to learn. Self-love allows not to take everything personally, but to see a person on the other side. Lastly, remembering my self-worth makes it easier for me to focus on people, to meet their needs. High self-esteem has made me a stronger and happier person, it is easier for me to empathize. And I do my best to help others achieve these results, because I believe that this is how we will change this world for the better.
Steps towards high self-esteem
The path to high self-esteem can be long and challenging, but stepping on it, it is difficult not to go the distance. Here are some of my tips on how to get started:
• You deserve your love and self-esteem. This is a fact, not a discussion. Start by saying this to yourself in front of a mirror every day.
• Start a diary where you write down every night three things you did well today. Praise yourself, now is not the time to be shy and quiet. I know this practice can sound counterproductive because praise works on self-confidence, not self-esteem. But working on higher self-esteem, it is important to learn to approve of yourself without help from the outside. Low self-esteem is often manifested through a very noisy internal critic. He tells us things about us that we would never say to our friends. With the practice of keeping such a diary, you will begin to nurture an inner supporter whose voice will be extremely important in your path.
• While the inner fan is still small and quiet, attract fans from the outside. Create a small fan club, and seek their support when it is too difficult. Here it is important to find a balance and not get used to depending on their support. However, my experience shows how important it is sometimes to ask people around you when a positive voice inside is insidiously silent.
I write a diary of “my good deeds” to clients as soon as I see low self-esteem. This is an extremely important tool, mastering which significantly improves the quality of life and the amount of joy in it. I felt its power, but I know it takes time to get in the habit of keeping a diary and feel its benefits. That’s why I always stand by in the role of an ardent supporter and show clients their successes. In a few weeks they tell me about their achievements and stressful situations that would have knocked them off their feet before, but not now.
Our high self-esteem has a positive effect not only on us
May 2020, I talked with my mother via the Internet. Suddenly she asks: “Anya, are you studying psychology now?” A little confused by the question, I explain that I study psychology and much more. Mom listens and then says, “For me, what you do too hard to understand. I’m proud of you.” I don’t know why she suddenly decided to read my posts, but I’m sure a healthy positive reaction to her comment two weeks ago did its job. Mom sees the difference in my reactions now and a few years ago. And although the theory of self-esteem is so over her head, the relevant practice is easy to implement.