How to build emotional resilience and bolster self-esteem
Do you make an effort to look after your emotional resilience? Do you stand up for what you need? Or do you prioritize your physical health, work or other people’s needs instead? Neuroscience tells us that emotional wounds such as failure, criticism, and loneliness cause us pain in the same way as physical wounds because the same parts of our brain light up. So why do we look after our teeth better than our psychological health? What can we do to bolster our self-esteem and build emotional resilience?
1. Do something about loneliness
Social isolation is one of the biggest predictors of depression. Loneliness even affects our physical health (blood pressure, cardiovascular health, life expectancy and more). (Find out more here..)
Loneliness is not exclusive to the singletons out there. You can be equally lonely in a marriage or a family. Loneliness is subjective and depends on how disconnected you feel from your environment.
“Just reach out to someone” you might say, but loneliness is tricky emotion. Loneliness distorts our perception of our relationships, making us afraid to reach out because we believe that the people around us don’t care about us.
So what can you do to fortify your emotional resilience? Think of a time when you felt really connected to someone/people and then contact those people. It will take courage and vulnerability to do so, but it might just disconfirm your thoughts that those people don’t care about you.
Increasing the amount of contact you have with other humans is also going to help. In December 2015, I left my corporate job working in a buzzing office of 1000 people to start my private psychotherapy practice working from home. I remember a colleague had warned me how she had become depressed in her first year of private practice, but I arrogantly thought “that won’t happen to me.” But it did. The social isolation of working from home impacted my self-esteem and my mood. Initially I felt guilty for taking time out of the working day to join exercises classes or catch up for a coffee with mates, but I quickly realised how vital those activities and social contact were to my emotional wellbeing. Now I have a regular schedule of yoga, Pilates, and social events that bolster my emotional resilience.
Here are some other tips for overcoming loneliness.
2. Flip the way you view failure
Thomas Edison famously said: “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
If he had given in to negative beliefs around failure, I would be sat here typing this in the dark.
When we fail, we usually fall back into a default pattern of thinking “oh well that just shows I’m not good enough… I should probably never try that again”. One big failure could be enough to stop us trying that thing ever again.
Like loneliness, failure distorts our perceptions and triggers our negative beliefs. We can spiral into a failure tornado of negative thoughts. So how do we stop this familiar pattern?
Remember how your mum kissing your grazed knee better made you feel better when you were young? One way to break the hold of the failure belief tornado is to reach out and connect with a trusted friend or family member. Someone you value and care about. Someone who is going to listen to you, show you empathy and compassion, and help you soothe that wounded part of you.
Being heard or seen in your time need, feeling compassion and connection from another human being can help downgrade your tornado of negativity into a minor shower. Trust me, it works. I fail all the time, quite publicly sometimes. And it hurts. However, talking to my favorite people stops me from drowning in shame and re-builds my emotional resilience.
3. Change your filter for criticism
Talking of shame, does criticism flood you with shame? Does it make you curl up into a ball and want to hide away from the world? One negative voice can drown out 100 positive comments. But do you ever stop to consider who the person is that is criticizing you? Do you even value their opinion? Are they even out there on the same playing field as you? The internet has made it easy for people to criticize and even bully others, without even showing their face. But do those negative voices belong to people you care about or respect? Are they even putting themselves out there, showing up and doing what you’re doing?
I’m a BIG fan of Brene Brown. One of my favorite quotes is: “.. if you are not in the arena, and also getting your ass kicked, I am not interested in your feedback”.
YES! I bolster my self-esteem and emotional resilience by filtering out the noise, and only listening to criticism from my favorite people/tribe/squad, and those I respect. It takes practice and it still really stings, but I’m getting better at filtering out those that do not matter. And as with failure, I reach out to my nearest and dearest for compassion and connection and it helps lessen the sting.
4. Stand up for your needs
How many times have your prioritized work over a social catchup or exercise class? Do you skimp on sleep in order to look after others? Has your list of dreams and needs become buried under a mountain of chores and other people’s desires?
There are so many reasons why we might do this, most likely due to patterning in our childhood. Perhaps we got the message that good girls/boys look after other people first. Maybe there is the thought that we need to prioritize other people’s needs first so that they like us. So that we don’t get rejected or abandoned. However, subjugating our own needs in deference to others is only going to make us resentful and maybe even ill, and dent our emotional resilience.
So what can you do? Think about what you need in order to feel fulfilled, connected, have self-esteem and build emotional resilience. Talk to a professional about why you feel unable to express those needs. They will help you look into your beliefs and patterns of behaviour. You never know, you may end up getting what you ask for!
If you would like to ask me what somatic psychotherapy is all about, I offer a FREE 15 minute discovery session by phone for new clients.