The sun is shining. The birds are singing. And with the turn of the season often comes the desire to make a big change in one’s life.
Get a new job, find a new love, buy a house, take up a hobby – just do something, anything, different and better.
But so often all those big plans just go right down the drain, don’t they? (See also New Year’s resolutions.)
And one reason for this, when it comes right down to it, is that we’re chickens and lack the self-confidence to do what makes us happy.
Recently, I watched one of the prettiest girls on America’s Next Top Model (I know, shut up) get sent home because her lack of self-esteem made her seem unbearably rude.
You know what?
Not believing in yourself can actually make you look like a real jerk. Get ready to take those major steps.
What the experts say
“Take responsibility for every aspect of your life. Stop blaming as a solution. Give up self-pity. One of the biggest problems people have is this condition of passivity where they just know how to suffer. There can be understandable psychological reasons, very painful experiences that have knocked the wind out of people’s sails. But the fact remains, if we’re to help them become independent human beings, they have to learn to step outside their comfort zone and off the easy path of least resistance.”
NATHANIEL BRANDEN, psychologist, author, The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem, Los Angeles
“The core of self-esteem is in emotional association, so when you think of yourself you just feel good or you feel bad. That’s rooted in what memories and images automatically come to mind. To improve self-esteem, you have to modify those associations. Our games are directed at practising a new habit of mind. In the most successful one, you’re shown a grid of faces that are all frowning except for one, and you have to find that one smiling face. If you do this over and over, you train your attention to automatically focus on positive social feedback and less on social threats like criticism and rejection. If you can train your mind to disengage [from negative perceptions], you feel more self-confident and reduce stress.”
MARK BALDWIN, professor, department of psychology, McGill University, president, Mind Habits, Montreal
“The decisions we make are based in part on whether we feel capable and worthy. Some ways of boosting self-esteem are external and active, such as exercise, nutrition, meditation and choosing who we surround ourselves with. Other ways are staying engaged and changing internal things like how we interpret the events of our life. We also need to take responsibility and think proactively about how we can influence our experience, our environment, family, community and country.”
SHARON FOUNTAIN, president of the U.S.-based National Association for Self-Esteem, Silver Springs, Maryland
“A lot of issues stem from what you experienced as a child. If you grew up in a family where women were put down, even if you become successful that stuff will hold you back. Most of the people I see dealing with self-esteem issues are women. It’s not that only women lack self-esteem but that men are still coming out of the Stone Age when it comes to therapy. People change quicker in groups, where there’s positive peer therapy. If you go to a group feeling your troubles are huge, you may see someone with a more intensive problem. It’s good to say, ‘Well, I have my problems, but thank god I don’t have that one.’ Once people feel better, they want to stay on and help others.’’
MAURICE BLOCH, executive director, S.W.I.F.T. Self Help Groups, Toronto
“Wearing zoisite, a green crystal, will balance and protect the heart chakra while opening to a higher level of self-worth. The ruby flecks in zoisite help protect you from feeling vulnerable while opening to your full range of gifts and abilities. Alternatively, wearing zoisite with blue lace agate gently embraces you spiritually to soothe all of life's bumps along the road of self-transformation.”
KAREN RYAN, crystal healer, Toronto