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Build up your self-esteem

I was a pretty normal teenager while growing up. But at some point, I started to think more and more negatively about myself. I had some experiences that stuck in my gut - where I interpreted it as me not being good enough or pretty enough.

I thought maybe this would pass by itself, wasn't that what everyone said, that you were so insecure when you were a teenager, but that everything would only get better when you were in your 20s. I had heard that. I have to admit that it got worse and worse. These thoughts in my head, they didn't disappear just because I turned 20. They didn't disappear when I got a boyfriend. Or when I graduated. I kept thinking "as long as I get a boyfriend... as long as I finish this exam... as long as I finish studying... as long as I move there... as long as I get a job..." - then things will get better. But no external circumstance, or anything that was happening around me, could take my mind off things. They might not have been so clear when I was in love or busy with other things in my head.

But these thoughts of mine, they didn't go away. If anything, it was worse. I wasn't sick. But it was exhausting to look so poorly at myself and have such low thoughts about myself. It was exhausting to be so incredibly insecure.

Maybe you've experienced the same thing, that others have said something to you or about you that has stuck in your head? Maybe someone made a comment once, but how many times have you repeated that thought in your head afterwards? Maybe hundreds of times? A thought that you think a lot becomes a truth for us.

But what is self-esteem?

I had low self-esteem. But self-esteem is not the same as confidence. Self-esteem is linked to what you do. If you're good at skiing, you have good confidence in that. If I do not know how to ski, I have low self-confidence when it comes to skiing. If I had practiced a lot on it, my confidence would have improved because I got better at that particular thing. But I still have low confidence in other things I can't do. 

Self-esteem, on the other hand, is about what I think about myself, my value. Whether I'm good enough, whether I like myself. If I have good self-esteem, I am more confident in myself. If I have low self-esteem, I become unsure of myself and often compare myself to others.

Thoughts become trees of thought

If a negative thought about yourself or others is planted - a thought seed; then we can think about this in the wide and deep, water it with our attention, so that it grows into big thought trees! Eventually, the negative thoughts about ourselves and others are completely automatic! And what happens then? We break ourselves down. But sometimes we are our own worst enemy, thinking thoughts like:

  • Oh, how stupid I am

  • How ugly I am

  • I'm not as pretty as...

  • I'm not as cool as...

  • No one wants to be with me...

  • I’m not enough

And that's how we continue.

However, if we can break ourselves down, can't we also build ourselves up?

YES! It is possible! If you want to think negatively, if you want to drag yourself or others down, choose the opposite! That's high-level mental training! But it's not what comes naturally to us. What comes naturally to us is what we always do, almost without thinking it through. For many people, that's a negative.

But can we just stop thinking negatively?

We may say that it's so easy to just say "don't think like this - do this or this or that..." but it's not that simple. There's a saying that goes "you can't stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can stop it from building a nest in your hair." So, we can't stop a thought from entering our head, we think 70,000 thoughts every day! But, we can choose not to give the negative thoughts so much space that they take over, or become nests for these birds so that they LIVE in our heads! We can choose what we want to keep thinking about.

Thoughts are not static

What you think is not unchangeable. It used to be thought that "the brain is just like that". That the brain was static. But recent research shows that this is not true. The brain is adaptable, all your life!!

A thought is actually a physical thing. Every time you think and make a decision, you build something in your brain; you create thought pathways. Like bricks upon bricks. So it's true that what you think is shaping you.

Every action you take was originally a thought. So, what you think is important. We have an incredible brain that means that even if we have walked the same paths year after year, it is possible to walk new paths, i.e. think new thoughts. This is good news for everyone! Because it means that if there are aspects of ourselves that we want to change, we can! It's not that "we're just like that". We can choose to be that way, or we can choose NEW PATHS OF THOUGHT!

Research Project

A research project looked at London taxi drivers. It turned out that they have a more developed posterior part of the hippocampus because driving a taxi in London is so demanding. There are 25,000 streets to keep track of and a road network so complicated that you need to be educated to be a taxi driver! But then they thought, maybe it's just that they drive a lot in London that's the thing! But when researchers compared the brains of London bus drivers with those of taxi drivers, they found that it wasn't the number of hours behind the wheel or the stress of London traffic that made this part of the brain more developed than others. The buses just drove in the same lane all the time, but it was simply the mental exercise that trained the taxi driver's brains. Because they used that part of the brain A LOT! They simply exercised that part of the brain and it got physically bigger.

Why are words important?

God has thoughts about us. He created by speaking words. Genesis 1:3: "Then God said: 'Let there be light!' And there was light.” God created with WORDS. It is no coincidence that there are thoughts he talks about in the Bible, what we say, what we fill ourselves with - because it helps to CREATE! God created with words; we create with words too. Emnity, friendship and love. And we create something in ourselves with our thoughts, negative or positive thought "trees". But that is our own choice.

So, what do you do then? Build Positive Thought Trees! Start by saying new things to yourself! Start by saying "I am valuable. I'm good enough. I am much loved". Even if it feels strange, keep going, because that's how you build POSITIVE thought trees! This is how you build yourself up. Not to become conceited and weird, but to become more of the best of you, more as God created you to be!

So, what do you think and say about yourself?

I’d like to give you a challenge:

  • Choose 3 positive sentences about yourself
  • Look yourself in the mirror and tell them to your reflection every day for three weeks. See what happens.

Something will change in you, because your words create. 

Ann Helen Sperrud http://www.annhelen.no
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