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

BEING STRONG

Each one of us has within a force we don’t fully understand. Sometimes, we live our entire life without knowing what we are capable of and some day, something happens… Something that makes it come out and show us all our strength. But, you can also choose another way and work on this force, this inner strength, regularly.

It is called resilience, that which is the ability existing inside of you that allows you to face the difficulties life throws your way, in a positive manner, being able to move on and learn from each and every one of them. The good news is: resilience can, just like everything else, be trained.

Each problem you face in life should be seen as a lesson, where you develop your ability to make decisions and deal with their consequences, where you also learn to live with your doubts and insecurities. Resilience allows you to be healthy in any context of your life, teaching you how to protect yourself and deal with stressful situations. It’s a much needed basis for your personal growth and must be built and worked from as early as childhood. If you have kids, this is the moment to start building theirs’.

Although, if you really want to do it, you need to believe in yourself. It’s necessary to believe that you’ll be able to do something and be sure that even if you happen to fail the first time, you’ll be able to try it again, and again, until you do succeed. This process of developing your resilience is a slow one, in constant growth and mutation, building upon itself each time you face another difficulty or challenge.

It’s important to be aware that “getting over” some situation, doesn’t mean you will remain exactly the same person you were before, in fact, you’ll be able to adapt to this new reality and build something good from it.

Resilience is an important skill to develop and it will help you to make decisions in a more confident and autonomous manner. It will aid you, help you to have a more realistic perception of your skills and abilities as well as being able to adapt to different situations and contexts, providing you with a better quality of life. Furthermore, resilience helps you face life with more optimism and energy, develops your curiosity about the world around you and makes you more open to new experiences.

Looking for family and friends’ support is also a good strategy to develop, aswell as noticing that needing other people’s help is not a weakness. In truth, only someone strong and confident, is capable of admitting that he or she needs help.

How to promote resilience?

This is an ability that comes from deep within yourself and you should be working on it every day, with confidence and determination, yet there are some things you can do to make that easier for yourself and the ones you love.

First off, you shouldn’t fear looking for comfort from friends when necessary. Likewise, you too should offer affection and support to others, in much the same way you’d like for them to be supportive to you. The difficulties we face in everyday life are hard to overtake by ourselves and many times the support of other people is an important help, the help we need to stand up again.

Secondly, the creation of realistic expectations is quite important, for both, ourselves and others. You definitely should believe in your abilities, you should know that with effort you will really be capable of doing what you want to, but, you should also have a realistic notion of your difficulties and limitations and build your expectations accordingly, otherwise the feeling of failure and/or frustration might be more devastating than necessary.

The human contact and social relationships are also fundamental for the construction and development of our resilience, so, you should try to boost your positive social connections, making an effort to participate in different activities when possible. Even a small participation will provide you contact with different social environments and people who might have something to teach you. It’s really important to develop your interpersonal abilities, investing in relationships and creating bonds with others.

You should also look at your problems in a less devastating way. Keeping calm is the first step to increase your ability of solving problems and every time you do succeed, the less scary future problems might seem. You will be more confident and less afraid of taking on the world. When something really serious comes out, you will be able to have a more proactive attitude about it.

In order to achieve that, you should stimulate in yourself, just like in your friends and relatives the habit of introspection. What do I know? What am I capable of doing? What are my major difficulties? How could I improve on them? This small exercise will help you take conscience of your faults and your strengths and you’ll be able to define strategies in order to solve the difficulties that are coming up in your life, as well as keeping the emotional distance that allows you to deal with adverse situations. We all know that dishing out advices to others is easy, but when we are talking about ourselves, it’s quite different… It’s just a matter of being able to see any situation from an outside perspective and looking objectively at it.

Besides that, there are a group of factors that allow you to maintain confidence and to believe that even when something goes wrong, you can always try again. They are the ability to take initiative, sense of humor, creativity and critical judgment. You can’t wait for the world to solve your problems for you, you have to get up and do it and that’s the way you should deal with all situations and take the reins in your life.

And, last but not least, a sense of humor is imperative. Life changes everyday, and sometimes not in a good way. We should face it with a positive and humored attitude, trying to make our existence easier and healthier. And don’t forget, creativity and critical judgment will help us find alternative ways, even when everything seemed lost.

With your personal effort and the support of your friends and relatives, you will be able to accomplish the most difficult task, make that painful decision or experiment a new activity, a new job, or even a completely new life. And, if nevertheless, you can’t do it, you will try again with strength and courage.

Ki Magazine – no. 11
May 2014

ASSERTIVENESS IS NEEDED

Being assertive is one of the most essential features for us to be able to feel well about ourselves and our relationships with others, although, this is also one of the biggest challenges faced by humans as a social being.

The most difficult, and simultaneously the most important thing to keep in mind in order to be assertive is the ability to say “no”, without hurting others. Respecting our will regarding some subject, without disrespecting other people’s feelings is probably the most complex situation in an interpersonal relationship and most of the time, we end up doing what we don’t want to, or being aggressive and unpleasant to the person we are talking to.

Assertiveness is the opposite of aggressiveness, it is trying to understand other people, while defending ourselves and our interests. We do not need to be selfish, neither always put our desires above everything else, but it is important to keep them in mind. Of course, sometimes, we really need to be more condescending, when we have in front of us a person who’s in a complex situation and who is more fragile at the moment, and because of that we need to be more careful or we will end up hurting her even more. However, we should not fall into passiveness. A passive attitude could, without a doubt, avoid conflict, yet you can not forget that this is also a disrespect for yourself and you show a image of weakness that will later become harder to overtake.

But how do we learn to be more assertive? As everything in our lifes, you need to take the first step: find out who you are and what you want. An insecure person isn’t able to act assertively and if you can’t communicate your point of view and establish your own boundaries, you will not be able to feel good about yourself and have a better self-esteem. This is a vicious cycle, which is hard to break and many times, leads us to depressions, excessive anxiety and eventually, it will break your body too, usually through frequent headaches and stomach aches.

None of us like to do something that we don’t want or with which we do not agree, so, we have to learn how to properly defend our point of view. We are not the only ones that have this problem. Just like us, others may have an immeasurable difficulty in being assertive, so, we regularly find someone who, taking advantage of their position of power, will try to inflict on us their beliefs and goals.

That position of power is, usually, due to some kind of dependence we might have regarding that person. The first thing to perceive is the kind of relationship we might be enabling. Is that person one of our parents? Is he or she our boss or team leader? Why is he or she so important to us? What are the possible consequences of our decisions?

Let’s focus on the two situations which we normally have more difficulties to manage: the emotional side (when we have to say “no” to a relative or a friend) and the professional one, in which the fear of being fired is quite important.

In a healthy relationship with a friend, we should be able to say what’s on our mind and easily explain the motive of our “no” if necessary. If you feel it’s not possible, maybe it’s time to think about your relationship, something is wrong in it and you need to fix it, before it comes to a point with no return. On the other hand, if you are talking about family, due to the strong emotional connection and susceptibility of the members involved, it may be necessary getting external help.

In a professional context, it’s only natural that you might have some issues with communication. Picture this situation: your boss asks you to make an extra hour for the third time this week… It’s your right to say no, yet it’s not easy. In the first place, you have to say it calmly, with politeness and confidence. Even if you’re shivering inside, you must say it clearly and in a confident way “No, because…” or “I can’t, because…”.

Many times, the person in front of us is a bit unpleasant, to say the least, and within a hierarchical context we must try to be diplomatic: “I can’t, because…” and give them a really good excuse, or “Today is not possible, maybe I could do it another day…” or even “I would appreciate if you would notify me earlier next time…”

Although, please remember: don’t lie! Fake excuses could be discovered and it will break the confidence between two people in an irremediable way. It’s always better to say the truth, even when you know that the other person will not be very pleased with it. Remember that everything depends on the way you expose the situation.

How can you promote assertive attitudes?

As like anything else in our life, being assertive implies training and persistence. It is a goal to reach, step by step, beginning with an analysis of our habits and attitudes, of our most immediate reactions and recognition of our default behaviour.

In first place, we must try to develop our ability of building and maintaining interpersonal relationships. That’s the true challenge of a social life. Past the initial shyness, it’s easy to make conversation and have a good laugh with someone, but keeping the relationship throughout the months, throughout the years… well, this is really hard and we need to keep working on it all the time.

It isn’t always effortless to determine if some attitude is or is not assertive, sometimes, our emotions interfere and make it more difficult. A way to get over it, is observing other people. Seeing a situation from an outside perspective can help us recognize some attitudes that we had ourselves in a similar position. Watching it from the “outside” makes it easier to identify the most (and the least) assertive moments and then, it’s just a matter of training.

Next time you will answer to a person who upsets you, think about what you had observed before. Identifying and recognizing the different reactions people have is a big help in the path to become more confident and assertive.

Valuing your own rights, the same way you value others’, also aids us to develop assertive answers, since it helps us decrease our anxiety when faced with certain situations and, equally importantly, it helps us develop our self control and perception of personal strength.

Ki Magazine – no.10
March 2014