Julie Answers: What are some affirmations, mantras, or self-talk that can reinforce self-worth?
Pam’s question: I’m looking for certain techniques that can be used to validate self-worth in times of despairing loneliness. It’s quite easy to associate lack of intimate connection with others with a low sense of self-worth. So I’m just wondering (aside from actually doing the work of putting myself out there) if there are techniques that could help me feel more whole. Thank you.
Great question. The messages we give ourselves are so important, and yet I find that people are often unaware of them until they are specifically called to their attention. When I work with clients who struggle with self-criticism and lack of self-worth, one of the first things I ask them to do is to really pay attention to their own self-talk. Each of us are with ourselves 24/7, a much larger amount of time than we spend with anyone else. And we generally have some sort of internal monologue going on — a barely-conscious stream of thoughts, reactions, and comments about ourselves and life events.
I ask my clients to tune into what that constant “inner voice” is actually saying. I advise them to note, and maybe even write down, what they “hear” when they focus awareness on it. They are often surprised about how self-critical they are. Surprised by what they tell themselves both at times of failure and at times of success. For one, there are the harsh internal messages about imperfections and struggles. And when their hard work pays off with a win? Contrary to self-congratulation, excessive humility often comes to the surface. People often downplay and explain away their successes, telling themselves, “Yes, that went well, BUT…” “It was easy,” “I had help,” “I lucked out this time.” I am not encouraging conceit and inflated egos, but how about giving yourself credit when credit is due?
I make the “roommate analogy,” asking people, “If you had a roommate who said the same things to you that you say to yourself in your own mind, how do you think that living situation would be for you?” For some people that question brings a mild lightbulb moment, others are horrified at the thought of living with someone so mean and critical. When this happens I remind them, “Well, you know… You DO live with that person.”