The idea for this blog came to me following a recent coaching session with a client. I carried out a ‘values hierarchy’ (as described in Sarah’s blog of 14/5/2012) and, as is often the case it took quite a long time and was quite a mental struggle for this client to identify his values – it doesn’t tend to be something we think about. Among others, one that finally came out was ‘making other people happy’.
‘What a lovely person’, I thought. Most of the rest of the session concentrated on some common omission from the values hierarchy and we didn’t come back to this in the session. However, a few days later I received an email from the client. He told me that he had done something nice for some friends he was meeting and they had been very complimentary and obviously enjoyed what he had done. Initially he had told himself that he only did it for the praise he would receive and felt bad about this. However, given a bit more thought about the sort of things we have been dealing with in his sessions he eventually changed his mind. He realised that when he gets thanks for doing something for someone else it actually isn’t the praise which is the motivating factor, it’s that the praise is a sign that the thing he had done had brought pleasure to somebody else. This insight made him feel a lot more cheerful – he was living to his values. If you are not living to your values, then you are unlikely to be happy.
Accepting compliments comes hard to some people
Many people suffering from low self esteem find it very difficult to accept compliments and praise – they feel they don’t deserve it or, as in this case, manage to find a way to turn round a generous and pleasant gesture into something selfish.
We all need to feel appreciated – it’s what helps us to feel valued, and valuable. That’s why it’s unusual for small children to suffer from low self esteem – as they start to learn to walk and speak and do all the 101 other things they need to do, they get loads of encouragement and praise from Mum and Dad and everyone else. When a baby stands up to try walking, and then bumps down on his bottom we still tell
him what a clever boy he is, we wouldn’t dream of letting him think he was a failure because he didn’t make it across the room. But then somewhere along the line – probably around 7 or 8 – things change.
Pressure and criticism tend to take the place of encouragement – the ‘could do better’ style of parenting and school reporting come into play and suddenly the child starts to believe that he’s a disappointment, not living up to people’s expectations. And unless we’re very careful as parents this feeling can carry on into adulthood and low self esteem can become chronic. But, even if this is where you are now – it’s still quite possible to change it. If you feel you are inclined to view yourself negatively, here are a few tips which might help:
- Listen out for your internal voice – are the things it is saying fair? Try imagining a friend saying those things, or distorting the voice into another character.·
- Create a book for your achievements – we often focus way too heavily on our weaknesses or failings. ·
- Stretch your comfort zone frequently with a ‘10% new’ attitude – start small and work up – a new route to work, have your lunch somewhere else etc. ·
- Be curious about other people – it takes the focus off yourself and stops you worrying about how you are performing.
If low self esteem is holding you back– then NLP coaching can help you improve it.