LOVING MYSELF

Self-esteem, self-confidence, self-concept. These few words are in everyone’s mind. These concepts are fully connected with each other and they are the key for us to feel good about ourselves and others. In almost every situation in your life, your posture may well determine the final result and as soon as you know yourself and your abilities, you will learn to respect and love yourself for who you are.

The successes and failures experienced in all areas of life will have a great impact in your self-esteem. It’s a cycle that begins the moment you are born and it’s really hard to break it, especially for a person whose self-esteem is, in a general way, low.

The way you feel about yourself is reflected in the people around you and without you even realizing it, it will most definitely affect your life. It will create an impact on others and will act in many situations of your life, like getting a new job, finding a new boyfriend or girlfriend and it can even have a role in the fact that you may, or may not, fall prey as a victim of some kind of violence.

You must understand that each one of us has his own limitations and if the most of them can be surpassed with commitment and will power, there are others that can be conditioned by factors which are not in our hands. So, no matter the kind of limitation you face, the first thing to do is to accept it as a part of yourself and learn to live with it.

Growth, age and maturity will help you overcome most difficult situations, your life will evolve and at some point you’ll realize, that a lot of things that bothered you before, are not so important after all. Over the years, you’ll learn to overcome said difficulties and face complicated and unpleasant situations as a natural process of learning and internal growth. This way, you’ll become less vulnerable.

The problem begins when you realize that there are parts of you that you like and others that you don’t. So, what does it mean? Some time ago, an old lady asked me if we have more than one self-esteem. She thought of it, because she could recognize her own professional value, yet she hated her appearance.

Well, the answer is no. There isn’t an ideal and we do not like every single thing about ourselves. Never. We can believe in our amazing intellectual capacity, for example, but dislike our prominent belly, or we can have a really toned body, but despise the fact we’re not so bright in Mathematics. These aren’t different self-esteems, but the different parts that we take into account to construct our self-esteem as a whole.

Self-esteem is a global concept, built from our weaker and stronger points, our conquests and our defeats and it’s based on the value we give any one of these traits and the way we view life. In the end, are these factors balanced?

The way you value each area is actually the most important factor in the construction of your self-esteem and the most decisive one too. If you give way too much importance to an area where you have a poor performance and you don’t judge so relevant the things you’re actually really good at, your self-esteem and self-confidence will suffer, and most likely be low.

The most decisive way to influence our self-esteem is to experiment daily success. The more times you do succeed, the easier it’ll be for you to believe that you’re capable of doing something and you will engage yourself more in future tasks. Consequently, the more times you try, the more times you’ll actually succeed.

Warning Signs

Everyone has ups and downs and the so-called “complicated phases”, when you feel the blues, sensible and even a little depressed. However, it’s important to pay attention when these “down moments” stop being just moments and become too long or too deep and intervene in time. So, to protect yourself and the people you love, stay alert for these warning signs, which could be a good indicator that something has to change. The severity of the symptoms may require professional assistance. Do not hesitate in contacting said professional help since the sooner you do this, the easier and faster that process will be.

Anxiety, insecurity and uncertainty. You feel more and more doubts about your capacities, anxiety makes you avoid some tasks for being too stressful or too far from your routine and comfort zone. Many times, your heart seems to beat faster, you have some difficulty breathing, headaches or more frequent gastrointestinal problems. These are the main symptoms and they are serious, so you should think about looking for professional help.

Lack of self-confidence. When some situation or task demands something more from you, you keep asking yourself if you really can do it. Many times, you just give up even before you had even started, because you believe you’re not capable of said task. This is also a classic sign and tends to spread to all situations if you don’t do something.

Emotional dependence from other people. You feel an extreme need of praise and approval in your work. Everyone likes to receive some compliments but if you really need it to know that you’ve done a good job or took the right decision, it means that you do not have enough confidence in yourself. Try looking at your own work without bias and without being depreciative.

Difficulty in defending your rights and opinions. This could be a subcategory of the above, since it’s also caused by the need of approval and recognition. It’s natural that, sometimes, you have some trouble showing your points of view or defending an opinion which is contrary to the majority, but if you can’t do this in any context, you should start to worry. And, do not forget, a heated discussion and aggressive behaviours are, also, indicators of difficulties at this level.

Difficulties in the interpersonal relationships. Relationships are increasingly distant and superficial, or even nonexistent. How long has it been since you made a new friend? When was the last time you talked with someone you didn’t know? Many times? How about your friends? Are they longtime friends or new friends? The exclusivity of any of the situations mentioned above are disconcerting, however, yhis depends on your age. If you’re a teenager, a whole year without knowing a new person is really serious, yet, if you’re an adult this is an acceptable period of time.

General insatisfaction about yourself. You feel hugely unsatisfied with your whole life, although you couldn’t put it into words. You just want something to change. You feel inappropriate, your abilities do not seem enough or, on the contrary, you feel you aren’t doing enough with your abilities. This insatisfaction, if not intervened in time, can lead you to serious cases of anxiety and depression, which tend to perpetuate in time and get worse every day. Look for psychological support.

How to get better?

It’s important that any person learns to love themselves, it’s a source of balance and helps you in overcoming the difficulties you’ll inevitably face throughout your life.

One needs to make an effort to help himself and evolve on this level. The first step is to really know yourself. It’s not easy, but it’s important to have some points well resolved in your head, before anything else.

So you should start by asking yourself:

Do I like myself the way I am?

Are there some things I’d like to change about myself? What? Why?

What do I need to do to perform that change?

Is that totally dependent on me?

If you answer yes to the last question, it’s a very good starting point. Now, you should seat down and think carefully about what you can do for yourself. If the answer was no, do not despair.

The first thing to do is to establish small goals. Most of the time, our difficulty of accomplishing what we want is due to the grandiosity or complexity of our goals and not because of our lack of abilities. Everything in life takes some time and you should elaborate small steps that will help to reach the final goal and fulfill each one of them carefully and without any rush.

Each one of these steps is extremely important and they should be seen as a goal by itself. Every time you accomplish one of these steps, however small it may seem to you, you should stop and reward yourself (it can be in an emotional way or any other way that makes you feel good). Face every small conquest as an accomplished goal. You managed, enjoy that satisfaction for a moment, before proceeding to the next step.

Do not feel weak if you need other people to help you in accomplishing some goal. It’s natural and can be good. It will provide a way to get closer to your friends and family, and besides, it will be much more fun, when the time comes to celebrate that victory.

And please, spoil yourself, do something you like and every day take a moment for yourself. Half an hour at the very least. You will definitely feel better.

Ki Magazine – No. 13

September 2014

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LIFE SKILLS

We often feel misunderstood, our words or attitudes seem not to reach others, and sometimes we just can’t clearly communicate what we want. Somewhere in your life, you’ve felt that way, everybody does eventually. All of this is a social behaviour that most of us believe has been learned naturally, but it’s not totally true and it can be learned and trained at any time in your life.

This social behaviour includes a series of factors (from us and others) and it has a great influence in the way we communicate and the way others understand us.

There are several factors, starting with the cognitive factor, the most rational one (we try to interpret what was really said and what it meant, as well as we try to find a better way to say something), the emotional factor (which is often undervalued), the motivational factor (our expectations about one situation will influence it more than we actually think) and the behavioural one, the most automated of all.

These factors interact with one another to promote your relationship with the rest of the world, they influence one another and produce an important final result which could, or could not, be suitable for you. It is important to know this and be ready to change whatever you need, but for that, you must have a larger understanding about social skills.

It is important to know that this kind of skill is totally related with the perception and understanding you have from the world around you, the way you integrate that information and, in the end, your response to it. Thus, we can describe social skills as an evaluation of our social behaviour as suitable or unsuitable, according to different factors, like age and culture.

The adolescence is especially complicated in this matter and each one of us should help the teenager developing his competences, supporting him in his natural efforts to gain autonomy, promoting his participation in different activities, helping him to make his own decisions and interfering in the family one’s, hearing him and stimulating his critical judgment. We must encourage a teenager to conclude the tasks he or she began, persisting, even when he/she finds obstacles in his/her way.

The best way to work these competences is always picking the best situations in which a person displayed the right attitude and try and broaden that attitude and those abilities to other situations, where he (or she) has more difficulties.

Promoting social behaviour modification

It’s important to promote this modification as soon as possible, so that the child or teenager for whom we are responsible, grows up with a notion of these skills, which will allow him or her to improve them. Thus, here are the 5 major points that require work.

Interpersonal communication, verbal and non-verbal. This is, without a doubt, one of the most important social skills and you should work at it everyday. The verbal communication always has to be consistent with the non-verbal one, which consists of the signals you, many times unconsciously, send to other people. If you are having a nice conversation, perhaps, you could show a smile, it could turn the relationship more solid and trustworthy and the person you’re talking to will tend to smile to you in return.

Your body posture may also tell a lot about you. For a more observant interpreter it may tell him that you’re nervous or insecure, which may be an adverse situation at a job interview, for example. You should demonstrate a relaxed posture, a slight smile, being discrete and speak in a calm and clear way. You should not interrupt the person who is talking to you, neither impose your beliefs and/or opinions.

It’s also important that you keep a habit for active listening, or in other words, you need to keep an open mind and carefully hear other people and observe their reactions, their facial expressions and body posture. You must be observant and at the smallest sign of misunderstanding, you should, without questioning the person, find other words to explain your topic, making sure the other person feels good about talking to you.

Assertiveness promotion. This is a category that could fit in the interpersonal communication, yet, I choose to separate it due to being something so specific and so important for our development. I will not dwell on the subject, since it has been addressed before, in another article, I just want to remind you of the importance of assertiveness in our interaction with other people. You should try to recognize and after that, eliminate the non-assertive behaviour and reactions, promoting the valorization of our rights and others’. This is extremely positive, it will help you be heard and it will decrease your anxiety during some situations.

Ability of solving problems. Developing your ability of solving problems allows you to minimize impulsive and inadequate answers and promoting logical thought and planning ability. Thus, when you are faced with a problem, you should, at first, try focusing on understanding all parts of it, then evaluate the choices and possibilities you might have, trying to anticipate the consequences of each one of those. After a careful analysis, you will choose the best option (with the higher benefits and least losses). In the end, it is important to reevaluate all process, before the definitive decisions. That´s the way you evolve and develop this capacity.

Cognitive Restructuring and Emotional Management. This is, generally, a complicated point in the skills acquisition, because it’s too hard for a human being to control his own emotions. It begins the moment you try to determine the distance between what you have now and your goals. When you realize you’re too far away from them, you get frustrated, depressed and anxious, a lot of questions about your capacities start popping up on your mind and it affects your self-esteem. The establishment of small goals will help you through this stage.

On the other side, when you realize your goal will be too easy to reach, it will not have such a positive effect as you may think. When it happens, you tend to stay calmer and take less efforts to do anything. So, along the way, you will be bored and apathetic and this kind of attitude will limit your growth. If it’s really easy to reach that goal, why can’t you establish a new one? Something bigger, more challenging, that makes you develop your abilities even further.

As you can see, developing your personal and emotional skills is a slow and somewhat complex process. One that should be started as soon as possible. If you feel you aren’t always at your best, this is the time. And remember, some exterior help is extremely important in this moment. Do not hesitate asking for help.

Ki Magazine – No. 12

July 2014

A POSITIVE YEAR

The end of the year is usually a time of peace, in which we give a major importance to family life and think about our close future. But this year, I challenge you to do more than that. I am asking you to push for more in this new year, to live better with yourself and be happy, because the acceptance of self (and feeling good about it) is a giant step towards a better relationship with the ones we love.

First off, you need to make peace with your past aswell as not allow it to affect your present. Do not keep old grudges and discomforts that ruin this time of love. Accept what happened and assume it as a lesson for your future. Look to that person who hurt you, talk about what happened and apologize if necessary. Do not forget: usually, a mistake is not committed by just one person. Besides, reconnecting with people you haven’t seen for a long time increases your social relationships and makes you feel better and more confident about yourself.

Although, you should not allow other people to become the center of your life or the motor which moves you. You need to notice that not everyone will always be there for you, or be willing to help out, actually sometimes quite the opposite… In a time where you may be desperately looking for something that give you confidence, motives you to fight and hope for victory, it is important you keep in mind: what others think of you, is not your problem.

Each human being is unique in his own way, it’s the result of a life story, of tears and smiles, sufferings and joys just lived by himself. Do not ever, compare yourself with others, you may never know the situations they went through and thus never understand their full reality. We pretty much only really know ourselves, so, do not presume or judge who’s around you, and ignore derogatory judgments from others who only seek to hurt you.

All of us have that difficult moment, when we feel down and we let the most ridiculous situations affect us in a very powerful way. We need to let time do its work and heal our wounds. Accept your mistakes, and the others’ as life lessons and let time pass. It helps us to move on. And above all, remember, no one is responsible for your happiness but yourself. We could have the support of family and friends, but no one will fight for us, the same way we would. So, do not blame others for your failures neither believe that everything you did right was just because of them. We all have our value, you just need determination and courage to show yours to the world.

Our world is complex and sometimes we are faced with obstacles in any situation, so don’t overthink it, or you would be looking for solutions to problems which weren’t there to begin with. There’s nothing wrong in not knowing all the answers, just be confident, let time flow, and sooner or later, you will find your way.

And ultimately, smile! A lot! Take the best of this new year. Spend good moments with your family, hang out with your friends and, at least once a week take a moment to yourself, where you throw all your problems behind your back and just smile. How about naming it ‘smiling day’?

Being happy only depends on the way you face life and it requires from you even less effort than you would usually think.

Ki Magazine – no.9
January 2014

Optimism

As my first post, and because it’s a cheerful theme, I chose this article, which I published at Ki Magazine a year ago.

The secret for a good life is in everyone’s mouth: being optimistic. Then, pops the question: what does it mean to be an optimistic person?

Everyone knows the metaphor of the glass half full, glass half empty, but what about if it is completely empty? Being optimistic would be… what? Saying that it is full of air? Is it possible to be optimistic when your all life is falling apart?

The answer is yes. Back to our glass of water metaphor, being optimistic isn’t related with the amount of water in it, but with our perceived skills to fill it up.

Being optimistic isn’t ignoring our failures. Actually, it’s the other way around. We need to face it and be more aware of ourselves and find a nice balance which will help us extract the best of ourselves.

Facing reality also provides us with the ability to get a certain quality of life. If we are in pain, if our life isn’t what we want at all, we cannot simply pretend that nothing is happening or wait for some external change which will solve our issues.

No! All of us are solely responsible for fighting for the changes we want to see happen. Being optimistic is fighting for what we want, it’s being disappointed or failing sometimes and yet… do not quit.

The optimists also cry, they punch walls, they feel like giving up, but then, they move forward, with the certainty that they will be able to do what they want. Because they believe in themselves.

The optimist doesn’t always knows the right path, he just feels that it exists and he never stops looking for it.

Ki Magazine – no. 8
(Published in November, 2013)