Perception is reality. How many times have we achieved something or received praise for our work and felt good for a bit, only to have our self-esteem drop again?
According to meditation teacher and New York Times best-selling author, Sharon Salzberg, our personal view of things can be compared to “looking at the sky through a straw.”
The problem lies within how you relate to yourself and how much you buy into your own negative thoughts. Often times, our mind is wrong about a lot of things. The more self-critical we are, the more negatively we start to perceive ourselves.
Highly self-critical people are more likely to experience higher rates of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, Kristin Neff, self-compassion researcher, and associate professor in Human Development and Culture, Educational Psychology Department, University of Texas at Austin, reported.
A technique suggested by Psychologist Christa Smith, Psy.D, to lessen the effect of your negative thought patterns is to say: “I’m having the thought that (insert thought),” when a negative thought crosses your mind.
That way, you practice seeing your thoughts as just thoughts, not reality. Smith practices this technique with her clients to help them take their negative thoughts less seriously and make the shift needed to overcome low self-esteem.
While some people think being hard on yourself is good for you, self-compassion is argued to be a more healthy way to relate to yourself.
Self-compassion allows you to practice mindfulness while acknowledging negative thought patterns. It allows you to relate to yourself with kindness. Self-compassion leads to self-love and self-love is more conducive to achieving goals than is self-criticism.
A blog post by Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times cited a study done by Dutch researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. The study explored the role of mindfulness in consistent exercise enthusiasts. It was published in the Journal of Health Psychology.
While mindfulness is associated with meditation, yoga and spirituality, experimental psychology refers to mindfulness as “controlled attentiveness.” Simply put, being mindful is being aware of what is happening in the present moment. For example, people who are mindful during meals tend to exert more self-control, which is conducive to weight loss.
In connection to exercise, the Dutch researchers concluded that mindfulness affected exercise indirectly by altering satisfaction levels. They surveyed around 400 men and women and found that mindfulness played a role in making exercise satisfying.
The more mindful you are during exercise, the more aware you become of what types of exercises satisfy you. The more satisfied you are with your exercise routine, the more consistent you will be.
Research Fellow and lead scientist on the study Kalliopi-Eleni Tsafou stated that mindfulness “facilitates the acceptance of things as they occur,” which enables us to “accept negative experiences and view them as less threatening.”
As you view negative experiences as less threatening, they will no longer paralyze you, nor will they define you. Practicing the art of mindfulness will facilitate self-love and allow you to achieve your goals while being compassionate with yourself.
Overcoming low self-esteem with mindfulness. Psychology Today. 20 February 2015.
To jump-start your exercise routine, be mindful. The New York Times. 20 February 2015.
The Motivational Power of Self-Compassion. Huff Post. Retrieved Feb. 24, 2015.
Reviewed February 24, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith