Posts Tagged: emotional health

Six Simple Ways to Improve Self-Confidence

Insecurities and self esteem issues can cause a lot of problems in life. You may over extend yourself, say yes when you need to say no, or talk yourself out of goals and dreams. The good news is that Self Esteem is not fixed and inflexible- it can change and improve. With the right people, practice and positivity, you can change that pesky sense of self-doubt once and for all. Whether you’ve suffered with low self esteem you’re entire life, or you’ve recently gone through something hard and you’ve lost your confidence, you can make simple changes that will improve how you feel about yourself.

Why do I struggle with Self Esteem Issues More than Other People?

The development of self esteem over the course of a life time can be complex. A combination of personality type, nurturing experiences, peer influence and skills attainment affect a person’s self esteem. My blog post last week addressed this in detail and is worth the read if you want to understand the development of self esteem better. Once you discover where your Self Esteem may have gotten delayed or off course, you most likely be ready to start practicing ways to improve.

People who struggle with self esteem rarely count that at their only problem. They usually complain that their self esteem affects their performance at work, their  confidence as a parent, who they chose as a spouse, and how satisfying their friendship are. If you feel negatively about yourself, your relationships, career and meaning in life will also suffer. Improving your own sense of self worth is an essential task in life to experience significance and happiness. Here are Six Simple Steps to Improve your Self Esteem and start feeling better!

How to Improve Self Esteem

  1. Get free of toxic people: Toxic people are those who are so self-absorbed and/or empty that they use up your energy, your good-natured generosity, or your positivity in exchange for their negativity, criticism, gossip or control. Their dysfunctional behavior patterns do more to bring you down, than up. It is impossible to heal or improve your self-esteem when you’re too close to the poison of toxic, self-centered and vampiric people.
  2. Nurture Positive Relationships: It may be impossible to eradicate toxic people from your life entirely, but maintaining other uplifting relationships is an essential task to improving self-esteem. Once you untangle yourself from negative people, it’s time to find healthier people who will add to your sense of self instead of take away from it. You may find these people while you volunteer in non-profit organizations, or participate in book clubs, writing groups, neighborhood or exercise meet-ups. Many churches have recognized the need for community, and have structured means to connect to support that need.
  3. Self Esteem Exercises: Whether you’re good at bargain hunting, decorating, painting, programming, hosting, training dogs, or hiking, to improve your self-esteem, you’ll need to practice the things you’re good at, and start adopting a few things that you’re not. In the context of doing something you’re good at, add something that you’re not so good at, like surfing, cooking, or art, and start learning. Learning and perfecting a new skill is highly gratifying and confidence boosting. It may require taking a class, going to a workshop, and getting certified at something you’re interested in. Many people who are healing from a broken relationship, will “re-tool” for a fresh start. Maybe they acquire a Pilates certification, or go back to school to change careers, or join a writing critique group. Learning and becoming competent at a new skill energizes all the right areas of brain and soul, and will help boost positivity and hopefulness.
  4. Change the Brain: Negative and critical thinking plague the person with a struggling self-esteem. But the good news is that even an old brain can learn new tricks. The brain likes to streamline and go into auto pilot. It doesn’t like to work hard, so it tries to go the easy way. So if your brain has a habit of thinking overly critical thoughts about yourself or others, or if it jumps to negative conclusions, worst case scenarios, or self-ruin, it can change with the right intervention. If your brain is in auto-pilot-negativity mode, it’s time to take back the controls and train it to respond in a new and better way. Stopping old cognitive patterns and replacing them with more helpful and effective thoughts will re-train the brain to streamline in a more positive way. The more you exercise these new patterns, the more automatic they become.
  5. Trauma Work: Self esteem development can get arrested, detained and imprisoned by traumatic events. Trauma can not only stunt healthy growth, it can also make a person distrusting, hyper-vigilant, and over-reactive. Treating the effects of trauma with proven trauma therapy like EMDR, LifeSpan Integration or Bio Feedback can release the imprisoned energy from the trauma memories and reset it to neutral. Finding a counselor or psychologist who have experience and training treating trauma is a great first step.
  6. Embrace Spirituality: There are many faith persuasions, and each person must decide for themselves about their belief system. I have found a few things that are helpful here. Though some refer to God as a Higher Power or the Universe, I like to see God as not only my benevolent Higher Power, but also someone I can talk with when needing rescue. Sometimes we are unable to muster strength, confidence or faith enough to do the hard things required of us in life. It’s those times that faith in a personal God can add to our sense of connection to Someone and something far greater than ourselves. In that spiritual connection, our sense of feeling loved, seen and cared for rejuvenates our esteem and confidence.

Improving the way you think about yourself and the way you interact with the world around you is a key element in growth, healing and influence. As you feel better about yourself, you will attract healthy people and positive outcomes. Your perspective will change, as well as your self-respect. Next week, we will talk about how to build your self esteem after a toxic relationship. See you then!

If Relationships are a Dance, Here are 5 Essential Moves to Know

My husband took some friends and me dancing for my 40th birthday a while back. Any 80’s Material Girl will tell you that a party begins with the Pre-Party in the bathroom. Loud music, hot irons, nail polish, and 10 already-tried-on fashion fails littering the floor. Everything must be. Just. Right. Once I picked the dress, I called for backup from the baby sitter and my pre-teen daughters. Does this go together? Is this dress too tight? I swear it fit last year. Is it ok to wear these orthotics? No? Ok. Do I look, you know, old? Are panty hose in or out? I never know! What about my eye makeup? I’m going for smoky, does it look smoky? Or does it look like my crows feet are just choking? Hey, watch me do the Roger Rabbit- look! I still got it! Groan. Mom, go- you’re gonna be late! That night, we danced till my knees hurt, and then we danced some more.

Relationships are like that dance. We anticipate, we prepare, we get advice and then we dance. We pick our partner with hopes of reeling and laughing and closeness and love, and for a while, the dance is great. But as time goes on, and life’s demand’s increase, the dance gets harder. The steps become more complicated. More skill is required to maneuver the required steps.  We end up stepping all over each other’s toes with territorial ego and unchecked insecurities. We spin to the music, afraid our partner won’t actually catch us. We discover that other dance partners look better, stronger, safer. We compete and blame, and act a tough game. The dance floor becomes a boxing ring while each of us throw jabs and then hustle back to our corners. If the dance becomes too much of a struggle, we may leave the dance floor all together. Some of us think, “maybe I was never meant for dancing in the first place,” or “if I were a better dancer, my partner would love me,” or “If he were a better dancer, this would work.”

When we were children, our families were our first dance partners and our home was the dance floor. They showed us a certain way to dance, and that way became familiar to us. It may not have been loving, enjoyable, skilled or functional, but it was what we knew. Because we have imperfect families with imperfect parents, the dance got messy. Some of us even swore as youth, “I’ll never be like them when I grow up!”

As adults, however, we unwittingly attract the same kind of dance partners to our adult dance floor. They may not look the same or act the same, but they dance the same. They feel the same. We put ourselves in the same position we were always in, and we repeat the same messy dance that our parents taught us. Sometimes we turn into the very person we swore we never would. Sometimes we marry the type of person who most hurt us as children.

If you have been deeply wounded by the dance, I get it.  Maybe your childhood family system set you up for what looked like a mosh pit, not a dance floor. Maybe your family of origin looked like a middle school dance in the gym where the boys lined one side and the girls lined the other, and the “bad kids” were making out in the back. Maybe in your family, there was something wrong and weak about wanting closeness, so you had to get it in ways that seemed taboo. Or maybe your childhood family system was touch and go, hot and cold, unpredictable and chaotic. Families with addictions and mental illness can feel intensely bi-polar where love and war exist in the same breath. Whatever type of dance floor you learned your first steps, you can re-learn what you need to know for healthy, loving relationships today.

Start Dancing Well by answering these questions

  1. Recognize Your Dance Patterns: How did your family handle conflict, affection and communication? What negative habits have you brought from your family of origin to your current relationship? Do you avoid conflict or do you rush in with arguments? Are you afraid of intimacy or do you smother your partner? Recognize what you are doing to attract the wrong partner or to push good partners away.

  2. Recognize Your Partner’s Dance Patterns: If you have a partner, what family dance patterns did he/she learn growing up? What was his/her role in conflict? Rescuer, scapegoat, rebel, victim, abuser? How is your partner reacting to you in the dance?

  3. Own Your Broken Moves: You may have the moves like Jagger, but if the dance is broken, so are your moves. Look closely at your own contribution to the conflict in your relationship. Be careful and humble to own your broken part of the dance. Are you pushy, enabling, avoidant, passive, or checked out? Identify your part and seek real change

  4. Learn New Moves: You have the power to change yourself and start a new dance. You have the power to change the dynamics in your relationship for the better, even if you are the only one working on it. You are a learner and a doer, so give some attention to replacing ineffective dance moves with ones that really swing!

  5. Ask Your Partner to Dance Again: Once you have done the first four steps by making yourself emotionally healthy, it is time to offer a hand to your partner. Invite him/her to experience the safety, intimacy and joy of dancing with a healthy partner. Even though it’s hard to start again, take the first step by offering forgiveness, grace and friendship. You got this. Maybe you find that the dance is over, and you find yourself dancing alone with no partner in sight. Don’t worry, there are many others doing the same thing. It’s called Line Dancing, and it’s very fun!

You are a treasure and a delight, and you were made to dance. As far as it’s up to you, be the best dancer you can be. Be proud of the hard work you’ve accomplished to change negative patterns. Congratulate yourself on what you’ve accomplished so far in your emotional and spiritual growth. And Dance.

What to Do When Bad Things Happen

In light of the recent devastation to communities in Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico and now the tragedy in Las Vegas, I wanted to offer help to those affected. Truly, all of us are affected when bad things happen in our world, just some of us are closer to the tragedies than others. For those of you who are pained by the recent events but not sure what to do or how to feel about them, please read the following example and tips that I wrote awhile back.

Stacey’s Story

“Everything is pretty terrible actually.” I ran into a friend at the store, when this tumbled out of her mouth. She had recently been in a car accident and sustained a concussion. As an employee and student, she had to get extensions from her boss and instructors for deliverables and assignments. She said, “I just can’t concentrate. I can’t focus. I can’t get anything done. My life changed in an instant. I’ve been sidelined.”

I was so sad to see this beautiful young woman struggle like this. She was always a real go-getter, a runner, a successful sales person, and now she was stopped in her tracks. Stacey verbalized what she felt as a victim of brain trauma, but she could easily be describing what people everywhere say about trauma in general. Her story is much like injuries to the soul- what I call Soul Holes. Whether you’ve experienced trauma to the brain, the body or the soul, trauma hurts. It affects your functioning, your confidence, and your relationships. Loss, divorce, abuse, theft, assault, bankruptcy, natural disasters all can have traumatizing effects.

She could easily be describing what people everywhere say about trauma in general.

What Trauma Does…

To your Brain: Trauma impacts new learning, focus, concentration, and memory. You may not be able to function after the trauma at the same level you functioned before the trauma. Healing takes time and a lot of effort.

To your Relationships: Trauma affects your ability to trust, cope, and form healthy relationships. Bonding may be more difficult for you because you are wary of something bad happening consciously or unconsciously. Your brain is so occupied with survival, that things like affection, intimacy, and empathy essential to healthy relationships, don’t come naturally.

To your Emotional Health: Trauma disrupts your ability to self-sooth, control your feelings, and your ability to distinguish between safe and unsafe people. Everything inside feels messed up and unstable. You question and doubt yourself and the people around you, and possibly even trust people and places that shouldn’t be trusted. Your flight or flight responses could be locked into over drive leaving you emotionally spent and confused.

To Your Body: PTSD results in tightened muscles, shallow breathing, racing thoughts, rapid heart rate and hyper vigilance. Contrarily, creativity directly affects those symptoms by relaxing the body, deepening the breath, focusing the mind, slowing the heart rate and calming response triggers. Trauma has been linked to heart disease, obesity, addiction, pulmonary illness, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and chronic pain disorders.

To Your Paradigm: Trauma affects the way you see the world and yourself. You may not see the world as a trustworthy place to grow, in which to take risks and thrive. You may not see yourself as having the ability, the confidence, the worth-whileness to accomplish good things in the world.



Just like the Trauma Flower.

The Trillium is a perennial that grows in the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest. It’s usually found in the wild protected by a canopy of pines and maples. It loves the ample rain fall and blooms in the spring. It’s so special to see on a hike through the forest it just makes you want to pick it. But picking the bloom traumatizes the plant. Picking the bloom retards its growth because the corn is unable to gather enough nutrients from the sun for next year’s bloom. Once traumatized, the flower may never bloom again.

The Trillium is our very own Trauma Flower. It reminds us when our bloom is plucked, we must be very careful to restore ourselves for future blooming. If we don’t take care of the trauma after-math, our insides start to die. Without plenty of attention, healing and nurturing, we can’t be restored to health.

sun through trees

What Will Help You:

Getting Safe: Doing whatever it takes to make your world safe and secure. Your body and soul need rest, recovery time and patience. You may feel effects from the trauma for weeks and months after the traumatic event. This is normal. However, getting yourself physically and emotionally safe is paramount for healing to occur.

Having Choices: Victims of trauma will feel like their choices were taken away, and the trauma was forced upon them. Whether by accident or by will, you went through something in which you had little to no choice. You will need the ability to make choices about your recovery, your resting period, and your healing to feel powerful again.

Being Empowered: If you were traumatized by someone or something, you felt a loss of power and control. You still may feel that way. You may not be able to control your stress level, your emotions, your anger or your drug or alcohol use. You need help to bring back a sense of empowerment. Setting boundaries with the help of safe people will get you back to a state of Empowerment.

Do Something: Those who do something fair better in the long run than those who do not. For example, those who donate money, volunteer to help, give blood, call a friend or relative, make a plan, or organize a crisis response feel less helpless and more confident. The feeling of being able to help someone else through a bad situation can be powerfully healing. Today, in response to the Las Vegas mass shooting, I published this blog and made an apple cobbler for my family. Bringing comfort to the people I care about makes me feel more in control and less helpless when bad things happen.

Having Help and Collaboration: You won’t be able to recover fully on your own. You will need the help of healthy people, experts, people who’ve been there, and people who care. Even though trauma can leave you feeling isolated and ashamed, reach out to helpful people. Allow safe people to help you make decisions about your recovery and your next steps. Opening up to trustworthy people is a wonderful first step in getting “yourself back.”

Having Reliability and Predictability: Trauma can leave your inner and outer world disorganized with lots of loose ends and unfinished business. You can’t expect to get your life back in order right away. Give yourself time and routine. As much as possible, set your calendar with routine and predictability in mind with plenty of margin for rest and self-nurture. Accomplish one small thing a day and congratulate yourself for the movement, no matter how small it is.

Take Heart

What Stacey Did Right:

Asked for Help: Once she learned she wasn’t thinking clearly, she immediately asked her superiors for extra time to complete projects.

Was Patient with Herself: She didn’t expect herself to recover right away. Sure, that would be nice, but she was listening to the doctors about what was realistic to expect. She, like the trillium may need to wait a few seasons before her bloom returns. She understood that growth and healing were happening behind the scenes, even if there was no evidence of it yet.

Talked About It: Though my friend and I hadn’t caught up in awhile, she didn’t hide her recent struggles. She opened up about the real circumstances she experienced. She even saw a counselor to help her prioritize the things that were now important for her.

Didn’t Pretend it Didn’t Happen: My friend could have been tempted to deny the negative affects of her trauma and pretended she could carry on business as usual, but she didn’t. She knew it is always better to face reality than to hide from the truth.

Wasn’t Ashamed: My friend was experiencing weakness, real struggle, and even a sense of failure. But she decided that she wasn’t going to be ashamed of her struggle, she was going to bring it into the light and talk about it.

I know it’s hard.

There are many of us out there that wish we could talk about our trauma as freely as my friend talked about her head injury. Some traumas like abuse, bullying, betrayal, or significant loss are just not that easy to talk about or get help for. I totally get that. I’ve struggled with things in my life that I felt were so taboo to talk about.

But talking about them is exactly what will bring us healing.

Trauma loses its power when its brought into the light. Pain doesn’t seem so big when it’s brought out of hiding. As we feel the pain of trauma in our own lives, and see the pain of trauma in others, let’s give ourselves the space needed for healing, and the will to move forward in a positive direction.


My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

Subscribe to our mailing list