Progress in self improvement is generally not an instant achievement. Real growth takes time. We are an “instant” everything society and some of you, I know, would like to take a pill or do an exercise a few times and have instant self esteem, or instant self confidence or perhaps a thin body that allows your self image to soar. It just isn’t going to happen and you need some “self improvement tools” to help you on your way.
By the time I filed for a divorce to end a 25 year marriage I was pretty much at rock bottom. I had lost my identity because for most of those years I was known as John’s wife and Chris and Kevin’s mom. Some people didn’t even know my first name. My husband was well known and my children were quite popular—all their friends called me mom and most adults, other than close friends, called me Mrs. Conlan. So, in essence, I didn’t even have a name of my own.
When I had said “I do” I believed I could do anything, be anything achieve anything. And I did. But after 25 years of being put down, ignored and verbally and emotionally abused my self esteem was at the lowest it could go. 25 years of continuous little verbal jabs will do that and the jabber is rarely aware of it. The “jabee” usually puts up with it until they reach a final breaking point. When that happened, I made the decision to leave.
Leaving generally implies another “starting” —beginning again. How do you start when you no longer believe you have anything to offer? You start by getting up, dressing up and showing up and doing whatever work you do the best you can that day. You do it one day at a time. You wipe your tears, grit you teeth and do what you have to do.
Now, 22 years later I am back! In fact I am not only back but better. It was a tortuous path but I made it and am still traveling on it. I learned a lot along the way and those things I’ll share with you. Following are some of the tools I found helpful along the way.
- Find someone to help you. For me it was a professional counselor. I went to two: one when I was trying to make the decision to file for divorce and one when I was trying to figure out just who I was after those twenty five years. Both were of tremendous help. This was before the days of Positive Psychology. Now I would look for a Positive Psychology coach or a counselor who was trained to work with my strengths instead of my weaknesses.. This person can also be a best friend or someone else you can trust.
- Meditation. This was probably the single most powerful change agent in my new life. I found some groups to join, studied meditation, bought meditation tapes (remember those) and CDs and taught meditation for a while. It created a “safe place” within me and opened my mind and heart to the growth and change I needed to experience. It also got me grounded, centered and calmed down. If meditation is a challenge try a program such as Project Meditation that works with brain wave technology to help you achieve a meditative state.
- Hypnotherapy and Self Hypnosis. During the time preceding the divorce I developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and gained a great deal of weight. I tried several diets unsuccessfully—the only thing I hadn’t tried was hypnosis. I did lose some weight using hypnosis (40 pounds) but the great outcome was an understanding of and love for hypnosis and hypnotherapy as well as a fascination with the mind. When I was able, I studied hypnotherapy and started working in a hypnotherapy clinic. I consider it to be, next to meditation, the most important self improvement tool available. Because it works with the subconscious mind which controls habits and emotions it is powerfully effective. Because the subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and imagined, you can literally imagine yourself back to wholeness. (There are many good self hypnosis CDs and MP3 downloads available. One of the best I have found is a new virtual reality program by Luca Bosurgi: http://mindfitnesslab.com/
- Affirmations. Because the subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference in what’s real and imagined you can affirm that you are what you want to be. It can’t just be repeated over and over to be effective—affirmations needs to be said or thought with meaning, feeling, perhaps passion, to work for you. Even if you weight 300 pounds you can affirm, “I am slender and healthy.” Do not discount the power of your own mind to help you turn things around.
- Self Help/Self Improvement literature. Don’t be afraid to read, to learn new things, to expand your thinking. This includes some of the really terrific videos on YouTube. There is a vast selection available now. You can find many outstanding videos on YouTube and/or enroll in programs such as I Achieve Today.
- Humor. Laugh every chance you get. Watch the comedy channels, read the comics, send and receive cartoons by email if you can. Laugh, laugh, laugh—as much as you can.
- If you’re alone, and it’s at all possible, get a pet. They are wonderful healers. It has been said that the most powerful healing comes from a cat’s purr and a dog’s wagging tail. They love you no matter what and when you self esteem is at zero, you need that. Here’s my dog, Smarty.
- Help someone else. Get involved in volunteering for a cause you believe in. Helping other people will always help you simultaneously. Just do it.
- Study what your beliefs are. What do you believe that you weren’t told you HAD to believe? What have you come to believe deeply on your own. This will build you a foundation upon which self esteem will grow.
- Open up to love. Know that you are, even if you don’t feel loving, lovable and loved.
Those are the major tools I came to use. Begin somewhere in the list and gradually add the others. It takes them all so don’t just pick one and think it’s the magic tool. Give yourself time to grow. Your self esteem/self worth is like a beautiful flower. Plant the seed of what you want and water and nourish it using the tools above. One day, almost without noticing the changes that have take place, you will realize that you are in full bloom and very, very beautiful.
And so you are!