Monthly Archives: May 2012

3 Tips for Developing Unflappable Self-Esteem

You don’t need to have the looks of Brad Pitt, the sense of humor of Louis CK or the style of Marc Jacobs to be naturally self-confident!  In fact, with a little extra effort, it’s possible to develop the unflappable sense of self-esteem that’ll help you to advance in both your business and personal lives.

Here’s how to do it…

Tip #1 – Focus on yourself

One of the absolute worst things you can do to trash your self-esteem is to continually compare yourself to others.  Granted, it’s hard not to do this every so often, but the reality is that if you’re constantly trying to live up to the ideals you see in other people, you aren’t focusing on all of the natural talents that you bring to the world!

(And really, even the people you idolize in your life are facing their own struggles and their own self-esteem issues!)

A far better approach is to focus on yourself.  Spend time learning what your unique skills and strengths are, and then take the time to hone them.  If you’re talented musically, dedicate your spare time to learning and mastering instruments.  If you love computers, take classes and read books that allow you to expand your skill set and produce better work.  Over time, you’ll naturally develop a high level of self-esteem simply because you know you have these valuable skills!

If you must, use others in your life who possess the qualities you’d like to see in yourself as inspiration –but be sure you’re using their examples for guidance only and not for emulation.  Be your own person, and invest more time in developing your unique gifts than trying to mimic someone else!

Tip #2 – Keep a log of successes

Even the most self-confident people wake up to bad hair days, screw up projects at work and fall victim to a whole host of other “downers” that can trash their self-esteem.  And if you aren’t yet a self-confident person, you may find that these stumbling blocks lead to lowered self-esteem, sadness or other negative effects.

The solution here is to keep an ongoing log of your successes.  This way, you’ll have something to reference in order to build yourself back up whenever you’re feeling low.  To do this, set up a Google Document and create a live form tied to the document (see complete instructions on how to do this here) that asks the following questions:

  • What one thing can you brag about today?
  • What one thing are you grateful for today?
  • What one thing do you desire today?

Take the time to complete this form every night before you go to bed.  Then, whenever you need an extra boost of self-esteem, reference your Google Document for a list of all your past successes.

Tip #3 – Practice assertive behaviors

Sure, some people are born naturally self-confident.  But for the rest of us, learning to build self-esteem and be more assertive in our daily lives is just like any other skill – it must be practiced and wielded before it can be used successfully!

To practice being more assertive as a way of developing unflappable self-esteem, start by visualizing three recent situations in which you felt unconfident.  For best results, make these memories as vivid as possible by reimagining every detail of the scene in your mind.

Once you’ve put yourself in this scenario, try to look at your behaviors and responses objectively.  How is your posture?  Is your body language subconsciously sabotaging your attempts at being perceived as self-confident?  Do the words you’re saying sound like they’re coming from someone with high self-esteem?

Don’t be too harsh on yourself, but do try to fully understand how and why you reacted the way that you did.  Once you’ve fully analyzed your behaviors, re-envision the same scenes while imagining how you could have responded in a way that would be perceived as more self-confident.

To do this, revisit the questions you asked yourself in the earlier exercise.  Imagine your posture straightening, your body language being brought under control and that the words you’re saying come across as collected and confident as you can imagine.  Really try to visualize yourself enacting these assertive behaviors until your mind has made the connection between actions that might be perceived as less than confident and more positive ones.

You may also find it helpful to use an “anchor” in these situations.  By pairing your visualizations of assertive, self-confident behaviors with a specific physical cue or mental image – for example, squeezing your thumb or envisioning a certain color – you’ll be able to fire your anchor in situations where your self-esteem is lagging, prompting your mind to make the connection back to the assertive behaviors you’ve practiced.

Over time – and with continued practice – you’ll find that you’re better able to call up a self-confident mindset, enabling you to present yourself as someone with effortless, unflappable self-esteem.

3 Ways to Easily Diffuse Family Tensions

No matter how much you love your family, there’s always that one family member with whom you consistently disagree.  Maybe it’s your Aunt Martha, who consistently harps on your weight or your marital status, or maybe it’s your Grandpa Joe – whose inflammatory religious or political views take center stage at every family get-together.

But while you can’t change your family, you can change the way you behave and the impact you allow their words to have on your mental well-being.  To learn how to quickly and effectively diffuse these family tensions and improve the quality of your get-togethers, consider the following techniques:

Technique #1 – Identify and avoid triggering behaviors

In most cases, negative family interactions are triggered by specific sayings or behaviors.  By identifying these connections and taking steps to avoid the triggering behaviors in the first place, it is possible to eliminate family tensions altogether.

As an example, if you notice that bringing up your government job is the trigger that launches your Grandpa Joe into a tirade about the overreach of big government and the current administration, you can choose to avoid this topic of conversation entirely.  Alternatively, if you notice that your Aunt Martha uses comments on her own expanding waistline to transition to attacking your current size, try changing the subject before the conversation rolls back around to you.

Obviously, avoiding triggering behaviors and topics isn’t a totally ideal solution, as this may mean keeping parts of your life from the people who claim to love you most.  However, if your family get-togethers escalate to the point where the tension of arguing over heated subjects is worse than the effort of keeping elements of your life private, you may find this approach to be the lesser of two evils.

Technique #2 – Choose to release your anger

Of course, in some situations, it may not be possible to identify or avoid triggering behaviors.  For example, if you have a relative who’s proficient at turning even the most innocuous comments into perceived accusations, it may be impossible to isolate and avoid the specific topics that will lead to family tension.

In these cases, it’s up to you to choose to release your anger in a healthy way, instead of allowing it to dictate the experiences you have with your family.  Just because family tensions have occurred doesn’t mean that you need to internalize them to the point where they affect your own judgment and the love you have for your family members.

However, in order to release your anger and approach tense situations from a more mature perspective, it’s vital that you remove yourself from the frustrating encounters until you can cool down.  When you feel yourself getting flustered, excuse yourself politely and take a walk, retire to another room or simply sit in your car for a few minutes.  Giving yourself space to breathe and work through the emotions you’re feeling – instead of taking your stress out on your family members – will make it much easier to release your anger before things boil over.

Technique #3 – Replace an angry mindset with positive ones

Another technique that’s vital to managing family tensions in a healthy, mature way is learning to replace your angry emotions with a positive mindset.  Remember – you are the one who’s in control of your thoughts and emotions.  Although your family members may influence these things with their own behaviors, it is ultimately up to you to choose how you deal with frustrating situations.

To learn how to swap out angry feelings with more positive ones – which will enable you to minimize tensions and protect your own mental health and well-being – try an anchoring technique that allows you to associate a positive set of feelings and emotions with a specific color, mental image or physical action.

Begin by calling up a memory when you felt peaceful, positive and in control of your emotions.  Your goal should be to find a memory that represents the way you want to feel when handling family tensions – so whether that’s assertive, cool, collected or some other emotion, make sure the memory you call up is a strong one that helps you to relive your desired state of mind.

As you allow this memory to fill you up, begin pairing it with a specific “anchor.”  This could be a physical action you take (for example, squeezing your thumb) or a mental image you create (a specific color or symbol works best here) – either way, the important thing is that you begin to call up this arbitrary signal alongside your desired mental state.

Practice calling up your chosen memory, pairing it with your specific symbol and then releasing both mental images.  Over time – and with consistent practice – simply visualizing your anchor symbol should be enough to subconsciously promote the positive feeling you desire.  Once the association is strong, firing off your anchor behavior in the face of family tensions will allow you to eliminate negative emotions and replace them with positive feelings that allow you to handle frustrating situations in a healthy way.

How to Get the Voices in Your Head on Your Team

All of have voices in our heads that provide both insight and criticism on our thoughts and actions.  Don’t worry – it’s not a type of mental illness.  In fact, these voices are actually our subconscious minds chiming in on whether or not we’re behaving in ways that are consistent with our core values and principles.

In an ideal situation, these voices allow us to moderate our behavior and bolster our self-confidence.  Unfortunately, in too many situations, they take on an ugly, negative tone.  Over time, consistently having the voices in your head speak to you in this way can trash your self-esteem and allow doubt

For this reason, it’s imperative that you take the time to get the voices in your head on your team.  When you’ve got a supportive, confident group of mental cheerleaders encouraging you and reassuring you that you’re valuable and worthwhile, you’ll be nearly unstoppable in whatever activities you decide to pursue!

If that situation sounds appealing, check out the following process for transforming your mental critics into positive supporters:

Step #1 – Identify negative thought patterns

As with so many things in life, the first step to fixing the problem of overly-negative mental patterns is to admit that you have a problem in the first place!

Unfortunately, identifying the specific instances in which negative thought patterns occur can be challenging, as it requires a level of consistent mental awareness that few of us are used to maintaining.  To get into the habit of identifying negative thought patterns, practice pausing every time you feel upset or uncomfortable and taking note of what the voices in your head are telling you.

For example, suppose you’ve recently broken your current weight loss resolution and chowed down on a towering piece of chocolate cake.  At first, you might feel angry, upset or just a vague sense of unease that you’ve done something that’s inconsistent with your stated goals.  As soon as you feel one of these sensations, take a second to tune in to the voices in your head.

If you listen closely, you might hear them saying things like, “I can’t believe you just ate that, you fat slob!” or “You don’t deserve to be happy if you can’t stick with a simple resolution like this!”  Don’t panic if your mental voices sound crueler than you initially anticipated – we’ll get around to squashing them in the next two steps!

Step #2 – Explore the impact these patterns have on you

As you become better able to track and monitor the negative thoughts that are occurring within your mind, begin to commit an equal amount of time identifying the impact these thought patterns have on you.

Following our previous example, if you hear the voices in your mind commenting negatively on your inability to stick to a diet resolution, take a moment to identify how these statements make you feel.

Do you feel worthless?  Humiliated?  Inadequate?  Unconfident?  Over time, you’ll begin to notice patterns in the way your mind responds to negative situations and experiences.  Maybe you typically respond to the voices in your head by getting angry, or maybe you’re the type who tries to drown out their noise with food, alcohol or other substances.  Don’t beat yourself up about the way you respond – at this point, it’s important just to observe how you interact with the voices in your head.

Step #3 – Replace negative thoughts with positive ones

Now that we’ve identified both the specific negative things our mental voices are saying and the way these statements make us feel, we can start the process of replacing bad thoughts with positive ones using the swish pattern!

Begin by calling up a memory of a situation in which the voices in your mind spoke to you negatively.  Really allow yourself to embrace this memory, bringing up all of the feelings, emotions and sensations you experienced at that point in time.

Once this memory is clear in your mind, release it and replace it with the image of a stop sign.  Spend a few seconds visualizing this stop sign before releasing this second image and focusing on a chosen affirmation that reframes your mental criticisms in a positive way.  For example, a few potential affirmations that could be used in this process include:

  • I am a valuable, worthwhile person.
  • I always try my hardest to improve my situation.
  • I am worthy of self-respect.

Tailor your specific affirmation to the negative feelings that you usually experience in response to the voices inside your head, and practice this process whenever you feel an undesirable response coming on.  Over time and with consistent effort, you should be able to banish these harmful thoughts and replace them with positive mental voices by simply visualizing the stop sign image you practiced with – allowing you to get the voices in your head on your side once and for all!

Assertive versus Aggressive: Which Side are You On?

Learning to behave more assertively is an important part of being successful in life.  Whether your newfound assertive behaviors enable you to push for that big salary raise you’ve deserved for years or simply to command more respect from your peers and colleagues, identifying and modeling assertive behaviors is a great way to improve your overall life and your well-being.

Unfortunately, those who attempt to be perceived as more assertive must walk a careful line between positive, influential assertiveness and brash, unprofessional levels of aggression.  If you aren’t aware of these distinctions – thus allowing your behavior to skew too far into aggressive territory – you risk damaging the relationships that more assertive behaviors would build up.

So as you attempt to become more assertive in both your personal and professional life (or, if you’re afraid your behavior already treads too closely to the aggressive slant), keep the following distinctions and practices in mind…

Aggressive people are often defined as such by the specific body language, vocal inflections and conversational techniques they use.  If you take a second to imagine someone you consider to be “aggressive,” your chosen example will likely exhibit intrusive body language (for example, inhabiting your “personal space,” gesticulating wildly and so on) and make use of harsh, authoritative tones when speaking.

Another key marker of aggressive behavior is “conversational dominance,” in which the aggressive party attempts to gain control of a conversation through rapid-fire questions designed to establish authority and dominance over the submissive party.  In my, “How to be a Dominant Alpha Male” article, I showed exactly how you can throw off this behavior, but for now, it’s important that you recognize this attempt to gain control as an example of how aggressive people behave.

Assertive people, on the other hand, don’t rely on flashy hand gestures, commanding tones or conversational tricks in order to emphasize their dominance.  Instead, the hallmark of an assertive person is his confidence.  An assertive person doesn’t need to resort to intimidation tactics to make his point – instead, it is the conviction behind his thoughts and statements that draw others to his side.

If you picture an assertive person in your mind, this self-confidence likely manifests itself in a number of different ways.  Assertive people tend to speak more slowly using level, even tones and demonstrate assertive body language that neither intimidates nor indicates submission.  Being in the presence of an assertive person doesn’t feel threatening in the same way sharing the company of an aggressive individual can.

Now, whether your past behaviors have led you to be perceived as a nice pushover – rather than the assertive person you’d like to be seen as – or whether you’ve strayed too closely to outright aggression in the past, it is possible to come across as more assertive.  However, you’ll need to put some serious effort into modeling assertive behaviors for this exercise to be a success.

In general, the best way to be perceived as being more assertive is to model the behaviors you define as “assertive.”  In other words, you’ve got to “fake it until you make it”!

So how can you fake being assertive?  Try incorporating

  • Tone of voice – Assertive people don’t raise their voices unnecessarily, but they also don’t mumble and stutter so much that they aren’t take seriously.  If you’ve struggled in the past to add a tone of authority to your voice, simply pretend!  Act as if you’re portraying an assertive speaker in your daily interactions and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you adopt these vocal inflections as your own.
  • Word choice – Many times, it’s not just the tone of our speech that undermines our assertiveness, but the specific words we use as well.  Submissive speakers apologize unnecessarily, attribute great ideas to others and generally try to deflect attention away from themselves.  As a newly assertive person (at least, in your mind), mimic the language used by other assertive people in your life in order to be taken more seriously.
  • Body language – Assertive personalities appear comfortable in their bodies.  They don’t fidget constantly with their fingers, twirl their hair or slouch forward in a subconscious effort to deflect attention away from their words or appearance.  To eliminate these “giveaway” signals and encourage others to perceive you as more assertive, roll your shoulders back, lift your chin slightly and keep your hands steady.
  • Eye contact – Assertive people make eye contact in a way that’s reassuring, not threatening.  To adopt this behavior as your own, don’t shy away from eye contact with other people, but also be careful not to hold another person’s gaze so long that you come across as aggressive.

At first, acting assertive when you’ve only known yourself as a more submissive personality can be challenging.  However, with continued practice, you’ll begin to adopt these assertive behaviors and traits as your own – to the point where you’ll hardly be able to remember your previous life as an aggressive or submissive personality!

Image: sidknee23

Affirmations: BS or Valuable Personal Development Technique?

If you’ve read my past posts, you know I think that the “Law of Attraction” – by itself – is pretty much bogus.  I mean, really – you can sit around on the couch all day, wishing and hoping for a fit body, a million dollars and a supermodel girlfriend.  But until you actually take action to bring about these dreams, you’re not going to get an inch closer to achieving your goals.

Unfortunately, the universe isn’t just sitting around, waiting to fulfill your every desire.  Instead, you’ve got to bring about the changes you want through a combination of concerted effort and mental re-programming.

Focusing on both of these elements is key.  Say you’ve made it your goal to earn a million dollars.  Obviously, you’ll need to take a specific set of actions to bring about this reality, whether that’s starting your own company, gunning for a big promotion or simply winning the lottery.  But at the same time, you’ve got to get your mental processes on track.  If your subconscious is constantly telling you that you’re destined to be a failure, you’re going to find it pretty darn hard to stick to your defined action plan!

One tool in our NLP toolboxes for promoting these mental process improvements is the affirmation.  Basically, an affirmation is a statement you repeat to yourself that embodies the traits or characteristics you want to bring about.  Following our example above, if you’re attempting to build a multi-million dollar company, an example of a helpful affirmation might be, “I will be successful because people want to buy from me.”

In order to be effective, successful affirmations must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Repeatability – For best results, your affirmation should be repeated several times a day, including at both the beginning and ends of the day, as well as when you feel your self-confidence waning.  For this reason, good affirmations are those you can remember easily and repeat frequently, without requiring the need for prompts.
  • Clarity – Good affirmations should be specific.  If you plan to use affirmations to power your weight loss goals, be sure your affirmation clearly states how you envision achieving these results.  After all, if you simply state, “I will lose weight,” this end result could be brought about by a healthy diet and exercise plan or a bout with a serious disease – your choice!
  • Appropriateness – The best affirmations are those that relate to specific aspects of your behavior, as these items fall within your control.  Using your affirmation to ask for a supermodel girlfriend isn’t nearly as appropriate as employing this technique to change your own self-conscious or shy behaviors.
  • Tone of voice – As you repeat your affirmation to yourself, pay special attention to the tone of voice you use while doing so.  Is your internal monologue full of conviction?  Or does your inner voice sound as self-conscious and dispirited as you feel?  By altering your inflection to deliver your affirmation in a confident, self-assured way, you’ll see much better results using this technique.

Finally, be aware that affirmations – on their own – are a relatively weak NLP technique.  Although the repetition of motivational phrases can be used successfully to promote positive mental changes, some NLP practitioners have likened the practice to using a table knife to cut down a tree.  Just as a chainsaw would be a much better solution for this particular need, there are plenty of other NLP techniques that can bring about the same results much more effectively.

Two examples of these tactics include embedded commands and NLP presuppositions – both of which provide the necessary framework for both defining ideal behaviors and mental processes and providing the impetus needed to change.

For this reason, if you do decide that using affirmations will be a helpful motivational tool for you, be sure to integrate embedded commands and NLP presuppositions into the specific statements you decide to focus on.

For example, let’s say your goal is still to build a multi-million dollar company and you’ve decided to use affirmations to help you get over your crippling procrastination.  Combining the aspects of successful affirmations described above with both embedded commands and NLP presuppositions, you could come up with the following affirmation:

“I have all the tools I need to become the focused, productive owner of a multi-million dollar company.”

Not only will this affirmation be helpful because it’s based on personal behavior and clearly defines the desired process and end result, it also incorporates the NLP presupposition that we have all the tools necessary to bring about our own success and the embedded command “become the focused, productive owner of a multi-million dollar company.”

Following these criteria, try coming up with your own affirmation message.  Then, repeat your chosen statement to yourself at least three times a day for a week and see if you can identify an improvement in your performance!

Image: stevendepolo