If I were to compare my self-esteem to a type of food or drink, I’d say it’s exactly like fine wine.
It ages well.
I grew up with quite a healthy level of self-esteem but it got destroyed along the way. It then took me so many years to build it up again. There are many reasons why our self-esteem might have taken a hit, and I expound on the reasons in this post.
All of us probably feel that we can do with higher levels of self-esteem. And over the years, I’ve discovered a very simple method you could start using right this very minute to boost your self-esteem and self-confidence.
Journaling. Yeah, I know, it’s nothing too innovative or ground-breaking. But hear me out before you navigate away. Journaling is not just about writing your thoughts in a book and the end.
There are specific techniques to journaling that can help draw our your emotional experiences, thought patterns, triggers etc, which you can then piece together to get to know what contributes to your self-esteem. What self-beliefs you hold which determine your behaviours and thoughts, and how you see yourself – key contributors to our self-esteem.
So, here are 3 key journaling techniques you could use to start building your self-esteem.
This is courtesy of one of my favourite relationship and personal growth coach/author/podcaster Natalie Lue. She has written a brilliant detailed article on the Feelings Diary here.
Throughout the years, I have used it extensively to pinpoint what I’m feeling in those moments and why. I tended to feel down and troubled but had no idea what was bothering me. This diary is also a great way of looking back at events throughout your day and reflecting on how you could have acted differently, what red flags came up – great for self-esteem work. The journey I’ve had with my feelings diary has been nothing short of empowering. I’ve learnt so much about myself in a few months just from using it on an-almost daily basis.
How does it work? There are 4 different parts to pay attention to in the diary:
Mood – What were you feeling? Good, bad? Angry, sad? What was your general mood that day and were there specific times at which strong emotions came up for you? Acknowledge ALL the feelings that came up for you, as I know we have a habit of blocking out the “bad” feelings sometimes.
Events – what was happening that day? Were there specific standout events or situations that caught your attention? Where were you at this point in time? This is to note the important occurrences of the day.
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Trigger – What has been the trigger for these emotions? This is your opportunity to make the link between how you feel and the days events. This is slightly different from the event section. A trigger is an exact moment that sparks your mood. Eg – if you’ve had an uneventful day and found yourself recording feelings of moodiness and boredom, the trigger would be boredom/not having much to do.
Lesson – Now it’s time to join the dots between the three sections above – is there something that you’ve learnt? This can sometimes be harder to figure out, but you might find yourself in a familiar pattern or situation in future. And then you’d come to the realisation.
This is all about spotting patterns. Once you’ve recorded enough entries, you will start to see what are the specific triggers that come about for certain emotions. For example, I now know that the sense of emptiness I tend to feel on weekends is because I am not planning my day properly and hence not connecting with myself and my beloved hobbies in a more meaningful way.
That gave me concrete next steps – something that I love about this diary format is that it really pinpoints what is happening in your life that is determining the way you feel.
When you are trying to raise your self-esteem, it’s important to take note what are the events and triggers that are making you feel bad about yourself, and to determine the length of time that these triggers continue to impact you.
Struggling with your self-esteem? Just can’t seem to feel good about yourself and your life no matter what you do? Don’t feel you are deserving of love, opportunities, luck and abundance? Do you struggle to speak and live your truth because you are afraid of judgment? Come drop your question in 100 words over here, and I will write back with some solutions 🙂
A Lesson A Day Diary
This is probably a shorter version of the Feelings Diary above and I use it when I do not have the time to be so specific and analytical about my feelings (which is often). It consists of just looking back at your day and just quickly writing down, in bullet points, what were the key things that went on that day and what you felt about it.
I’d even include sometimes comments that people made to me, inspirational passages I read in a book, or a reflection on something I did that day which I felt would be important to remember.
So how does this affect my self-esteem? I will record positive comments that others have made to me and achievements throughout my day as well as the not-so-great stuff that has happened and my reactions to it. Overtime, I’d read over my entries to see how far I’ve come.
When I started this habit, my entries used to be pretty negative stuff, the writings consisted of me fretting about my life, my career, my dreams, feeling anxious and uptight about the future. But as time went on, it became more positive. I started taking care of myself more – there were entries about me taking time out to indulge in my hobbies, there were entries on the toxic culture in my workplace and how I handled them etc.
Looking back, as my ability to feel better about myself and my circumstances grew, my self-esteem grew too.
Morning (or Evening) Pages
This was coined by Julie Cameron as a way of encouraging people to write, but it has become such a viral habit throughout the world. You wake up and write a couple of pages of whatever is on your mind. It’s literal braindump.
Most people will tell you to do it in the morning, but I really don’t think it matters. You can do it anytime you want to. Life is already tiring enough and we don’t need all these extra arbitrary rules. But the initial suggestion of doing it in the morning works for some people as our minds are still not fully conscious when we have just woken. I find that doing it in the dead of night when everyone is asleep is also really helpful as you are then able to quiet your conscious mind and tap more easily into your subconscious.
I admit that I’m not much of a morning (or evening) pages person. This is because I well, just don’t have time for writing in the morning and I’m way too tired (and have other stuff to do) after work. But sometimes, when I’m in the mood, I do sit down and freeflow. And that’s when things get interesting.
Once you get the momentum going, it can be hard to stop. And I’ve found myself just writing pages upon pages of…stuff. It’s a smattering of unlinked thoughts, everything that was floating around in my head comes crashing down on the pages when I’m in the flow. When I’m done, besides a aching right hand, I’ve brought to awareness some of my inner thoughts that I wasn’t sure it existed til it appeared on the page.
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Some people advocate not reading your morning pages once you’ve written them up, but I do like to read them. Because they contain juicy nuggets of information that I’m not actually conscious of. It has helped me to understand myself so much better.
For example, there was a point in time when I was feeling a little bit low about my dating life. I just couldn’t figure out why I kept ending up with the very guys that I was trying to avoid. It was through my morning/evening pages that I realised that I still held very negative self-beliefs about myself and about love.
Some people like to just write in their diaries then leave it all behind. But you really get to learn and see the patterns in the various events in your life, your reactions and your feelings when you read them.
Take the time to go through the pages again and you some realisations might jump out at you. When we write in our diaries, sometimes, we tend to just focus on the writing. But with some time and distance from the events, your mind will be able to process the events properly – our minds just work in wonderful ways like that – and you will be able to figure out what exactly is holding your self-esteem back as well as what you’d need to push you forward.
Try it and tell me how it goes!