Yogi-Warrior: Mindfulness and Self-Esteem

Yogi-Warrior_BlogEntry

My entire childhood was spent following my sister through various schools. Being 22 months older than me, she was one of the popular girls with whom everyone wanted to be associated with, adoring her and wanting to be friends with her. She was the swan and I was the ugly duckling as one godparent told me at the tender age of 7. So you could say that self-esteem was at an all time low throughout my entire time at school. Moving on, I can relate to what children of today are dealing with, even though I didn’t have to deal with Facebook, incessant glamour advertising and being constantly bombarded of images of slim beautiful women, and having to grow up so quickly with knowledge at the press of a button.

My journey to making friends with myself has been a long one. I wouldn’t say I was best friends yet, but I am close. What has really helped me to deal with the sometimes over-critical internal dialogue is having the awareness that I can either choose to believe it or I can simply accept ‘there is that thought again’, and allow it to fade away without me jumping on to its back, agreeing with it and then finding ten minutes later after ruminating about it, I am miserable, nothing is right about me and I have such a long way to go before I am who I want to be.

So when we see that the States Education Department have discovered through the Annual Young People’s Survey that low self-esteem is high on the agenda amongst young adult’s, I think we can agree that the majority of us at some point have experienced this. So what is now on offer for young adults who are having to deal with these issues? Mindfulness! Current research is showing a huge range of benefits for adults, and hot on it’s heals is the benefits for the young.

The Education Department are looking to implement Mindfulness, the .b project to be accurate, into State Schools. Great!

I have been teaching the .b project in Elizabeth and Ladies College and an independent course at Les Cotils. Course feedback so far has been great. But how does Mindfulness help with Self Esteem.

Mindfulness is a way of living your life moment by moment, with awareness, and with acceptance. Acceptance in this context doesn’t mean that you have to approve of your experience, but that you simply acknowledge your present experience without judging it, as good or bad.

So what does this have to do with self-esteem? Everything! Just stop for a moment and ask yourself are you always aware of what you are thinking about?, The truth is we are often completely oblivious to what is going on in our minds a lot of the time. When we do become aware of thoughts we may find ourselves judging our internal or external experience, and when that involves negative self-talk it can trigger painful emotions, like anger, disappointment, anxiety which can then fuel low self esteem.

So how do you talk to yourself? Do you find yourself saying things like “I’m such an idiot” because you made a mistake? Or saying to yourself “I am never going to be able to this”, or “I’m not good enough” when taking on a new challenge.

Many people experience these kinds of thoughts so automatically that it’s difficult for them to be aware of when these thoughts are present. Without an awareness of these thoughts we can find ourselves experiencing painful emotions and feelings, which can then make you feel bad about yourself and reduce your self-esteem.

This is where the skills of mindfulness and acceptance come in: first, through mindfulness, you increase your awareness of these judgmental thoughts and the resulting emotions and physical sensations. Then you work on bringing acceptance to your experience — accepting the thoughts as just thoughts; accepting the emotions they trigger; allowing the sensations that arise in the body as a result of the thoughts and emotions, and gradually, accepting yourself as you are.

An increased awareness comes from practice, over time we learn to experience fully whatever is arising in our minds and body with sense of balance, giving us the space to be able manage skillfully our internal landscape.