By Bertil Hjert
There are five basic strategies to improve:
• Enhance self-worth and self-respect.
• Develop a realistic view of other people’s approval.
• Develop assertiveness skills.
• Recognize and let go of codependency.
• Overcome social avoidance (social phobia), if applicable.
ENHANCE SELF-WORTH AND SELF-RESPECT
Briefly, self-esteem is about how you relate to yourself. Do you like, respect, trust, and believe in yourself? When you like yourself, you can live comfortably with both your personal strengths and weaknesses without undue self-criticism. You also acknowledge and take care of your own personal needs.
When you respect yourself, you recognize your own dignity and value as a unique human being. You stand up for your basic rights. You ask for what you want and you can say “no” to what you don´t want.
Self-trust means you trust your body, feelings, and behavior. You feel consistent within yourself no matter what changes and challenges may occur in your outer environment.
To believe in yourself means you feel you deserve to have the good things in life. You have goals toward which you´re working and a personal sense of accomplishment about what you’ve done with your life.
DEVELOP A REALISTIC VIEW OF OTHER PEOPLE’S APPROVAL
When people don´t express approval toward you or when they act rude or critical; how do you receive it? Do you tend to take it personally to see it as further evidence of your own ineptness and lack or worth?
Below are some common attitudes characteristic of people who place excessive emphasis on always being liked. These might be called “people-pleasing” attitudes. Following each is an alternative view which represents, in most cases, a more realistic outlook.
People-pleasing Attitude: “If someone isn´t friendly to me, it´s because there must be something wrong with me.”
Alternative View: “People may be unable to express warmth or acceptance toward me for reasons having nothing to do with me. For example, their own problems, frustrations, or fatigue may get in the way of their being friendly and accepting.”
People-pleasing Attitude: “Others’ criticism only serves to underscore the fact that I really am unworthy.”
Alternative View: “People who find fault with me may be projecting their own faults, which they can´t admit to having, onto me. It´s a human tendency to project unconscious flaws onto others.”
People-pleasing Attitude: “I think I´m a nice person. Shouldn´t everyone like me?”
Alternative View: “There will always be some people who just won´t like me, no matter what I do. The process by which people are attracted to or repelled by others is often irrational.”
People-pleasing Attitude: “Others’ approval and acceptance of me is essential.”
Alternative View: “It´s not necessary to receive the approval of everyone I meet in order to live a happy and meaningful life, especially if I believe in and respect myself.”
The next time you feel put off or rejected, take a moment to calm down and think about whether the person acting negatively is reacting to something you did, or if he or she might simply be upset about something that has little or nothing to do with you.
Ask yourself whether you might be taking the other person´s inconsiderate remarks or behavior too personally.
DEVELOP ASSERTIVENESS SKILLS
Developing assertiveness begins with an awareness of your own needs knowing what it is you want. Then you need to learn that it´s okay to meet your needs without feeling selfish or fearing disapproval.
You become assertive, finally, when you know you have the right to ask for what you want. You are conscious of your basic rights as a human being and you are willing to exercise those rights.
To act assertively includes two things: you must be willing to ask for what you want and be willing to say “no” to what you do not want. The importance of learning to be assertive can best be appreciated when you consider the consequences of being unassertive, namely:
• People don´t know what you want, so they may be indifferent to your needs or impose their own agenda.
• People take advantage of you, particularly when you can´t set limits or say “no”.
• You suffer stress from having your own needs going unmet.
• You end up resenting the people you want to love, because they aren´t responsive to your unstated needs.
LET GO OF CODEPENDENCY
“Codependent” behavior involves accommodating to others at the expense of your own needs and preferences. Your sense of self-worth depends on taking care of, pleasing, and sometimes trying to “save” or “reform” someone else or many others.
• Recovering from codependency essentially involves learning to love and take care of yourself. It means giving at least equal time to your own needs alongside those of others. It means setting limits on how much you will do or tolerate, and learning to say “no” when appropriate.
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Bertil Hjert is author of the Panic Goodbye program.
This program includes 7 eBooks about relieving Panic and Anxiety Attacks, Agoraphobia, OCD, and Social Phobia; using Abdominal Breathing & Meditation, Body & Mind relaxation, Yoga & Progressive Muscle Relaxation.