As I've mentioned in a previous post, I like to use concepts from Albert Ellis' Rational Emotive Behavior theory in my counseling interventions, which is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy. Rational Emotive Behavior theory claims that thoughts guide feelings and behaviors. Therefore, if one can change his or her thoughts, the feelings and behaviors will change accordingly. In the case of a client or student who has low self-esteem, I'll give him or her tasks or assignments. For example, a former student who thought he was ugly because of things he'd been told as a child was asked to look at himself in a mirror and give himself compliments. This was, obviously, very difficult for him to do, but we processed the activity until he could see the purpose and begin to find some positive things about his appearance. Another assignment I use often is to ask the student to list at least ten things he or she likes about him or herself, and share that list with me. The purpose is to start the process of thinking positively about oneself, in order to erase the previous recordings (usually of authoritative voices such as that of a parent or teacher) that have caused low self-esteem. I usually start the student off with something I like about him or her as an example. Obviously, these types of assignments require follow-up, and I always tell my students that they may feel extremely uncomfortable and may not believe themselves in the beginning, but with consistent repetition and paying attention to positive affirmation from others, they will eventually change some of the negative thoughts that cause low self-esteem.
Usually, the best way for me to know if what I ask students to do actually works, is to do it myself. I have very little time to practice EVERYTHING I preach. That's where insomnia enters the picture. Since I couldn't sleep last night, I made a list of things I like about myself, also known as the "What Makes Me Awesome!" list. After reading through the list, being realistic about what I think I'm good at and what I like about myself, I found that the list that I made could:
1. Make something I usually take for granted about myself just a bit more special;
2. Bring to mind the compliments and positive affirmations I've received from others; and most importantly,
3. Give me something tangible to read and reflect upon when I'm feeling a little less secure in who I am.
If that little list could do that for me, why can't it do the same for you, or those countless students I've encountered through the years? It's a funny list; at the very least, it brings a smile to my face.
Here's my "What Makes Me Awesome!" list:
- I am one of the funniest people I know.
- I make a great roasted chicken.
- I am good at planning events.
- I use my intuition a lot.
- I'm empathic.
- I am bootylicious!
- I learn from others' mistakes as well as my own.
- I stand up for what I believe in.
- I'm pretty smart.
- I have great hair!
- I have very expressive eyes.
- I sing nicely.
- I try my best at everything I do.
- I am sweet.
- I'm just a little sarcastic; enough to be funny, not enough to be bitter.
- I like baseball and boxing.
- I laugh loud and hard, and often.
- I cry.
- I'm an excellent kisser; I can tell!
- I don't take myself, or any of the above, too seriously.
P.S.: I don't think you're ready for this jelly!