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Developing Self-Esteem: One Thought at a Time

Developing Self-Esteem: One Thought at a Time

Do You Know How Awesome You Are?

Hey, let’s try something. Can you name 3 things that you LOVE about yourself? 

You don’t have to grab a piece of paper or pull up your Notes app. Just take a moment, close your eyes, and answer that question for yourself in your mind.

How did it feel to do that?

Now think about how easy it is for you to describe the wonderful things about someone else in your life. Someone you love, admire, or even only know superficially. For many people, it is a little more complicated to do that for themselves

Some people can rattle off a long list of their best qualities and accomplishments. Some can confidently name a few. I was working with a client recently who felt extremely uncomfortable identifying even one. 

When I asked her to do this exercise, she puzzled over it for a while before settling on one. But then came a flood of uncertainty, and she began to doubt whether it was true or not. She tried a few more times but ultimately she gave up on the entire exercise, feeling frustrated and disingenuous. 

This was someone who is highly intelligent, extremely kind, a hard worker, and truly lovely inside and out. She struggled with perfectionism in her work, insecurity in her relationships, and a lot of anxiety. We worked together to tackle those issues, and found that ultimately they all stemmed from her low self-esteem.

Recognize Your Narratives

The narratives we construct about ourselves are informed by our early experiences, our caregivers, our teachers, our friends, the media, and society at large. As we grow up, we are constantly bombarded with messages and belief systems about the world around us, and we quickly learn to internalize them. Recognize that some of the thoughts you have about yourself are part of deeper, more subconscious narratives you hold, and may not actually be the whole truth. 

For example, if you’re in the dating world, you may be experiencing various forms of rejection on a regular basis. A bad date can lead to thoughts like, “I acted like an idiot!”, “I can’t believe I said that, I’m so stupid!”, “I’m ugly!”. It’s important to recognize that thoughts like these are your brain cherry-picking through all the potential thoughts you could have about that situation in order to feed into those constructed narratives that you hold about yourself. In this case, it may be a deeper narrative of “I’m not loveable”.

Reflecting, journaling, and doing growth work through therapy or coaching are some ways to learn to recognize these thought patterns and the deeper narratives you are holding on to. They are usually so ingrained and instinctual that we have to make a real effort to even notice that they are present. 

Learn How to Thought-Stop

Thought-stopping is a CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) technique that I teach many of my clients who struggle with anxiety. Once you have done the work of recognizing the untrue or harmful narratives you hold about yourself, the goal is to learn to stop the thoughts that feed them further. 

I like to describe this as a muscle: Just as you need to continually do strength training work to keep your biceps strong, you need to strengthen your thought-stopping muscle in order for it to be effective. 

The basic idea is to bring more awareness to those moments when you have an unhelpful or harmful thought, like “I’m an idiot!”, and quickly perform a stopping exercise. This can be simply saying “Stop!” to yourself, or even a physical action like snapping a rubber band on your wrist. The goal is to develop awareness of the thought patterns, and to stop the tendency of letting harmful thoughts spiral into anxiety or continue to feed that unhelpful narrative. 

I like to think of thought-stopping as a protective measure to keep that harmful self-narrative from cementing further. It’s good practice to develop more awareness of your thought patterns and to feel more in control of your thoughts and anxiety. However, to develop self-esteem, we also have to do some deeper work to challenge these narratives we hold about ourselves.

Challenge, Re-Frame, and Practice Self-Compassion

While thought-stopping is a great practice to have in your toolbox for managing anxiety and spiraling self-criticism, we also want to make a deliberate effort to challenge some of those harmful narratives we hold about ourselves. Taking time and space to really look at what we think about ourselves, where it comes from, and how to re-frame some of those beliefs with more compassion is a vital part of building self-esteem. 

For example, with the dating situation, listing the ways in which you are a desirable partner and truly allowing yourself to look at where you tend to dismiss the positives and highlight the negatives. A supportive therapist or coach can be a helpful person to do this with, because we often find it hard to recognize when we are being unfair on ourselves or engaging in black-and-white thinking.

If you’ve read this far, you are probably someone who is looking to boost their self-esteem and are ready to make some changes in your life. One actionable tip I have for you may be one you’ve heard before: talk to yourself as you would talk to a close friend who is going through something difficult. 

Would you be harsh or overly critical with this friend when they make mistakes? When someone says something rude to them on a date? When someone talks down to them at work? When they are feeling anxious or fearful of tackling a challenge in their life? Just as you are capable of being a kind, compassionate and supportive friend, you are capable of developing your own self-esteem and gaining more success and happiness in so many more areas of your life.

Remember that exercise we started with? Try incorporating it into your life as a 5 minute practice. Maybe in the evening, before you go to bed, as a way to wind down and reflect. Or maybe in a 5 minute break in the middle of your busy day, when you’ve been on the go and have already had a thousand thoughts that you have not yet brought awareness to. Take a few minutes to breathe, check in on your thoughts, reframe anything that you need to, and remind yourself that you are trying your best, and you are worthy. 

Developing self-esteem is not easy. It takes a lot of energy, patience, perseverance, and support to be able to do some of the work I’ve laid out here. But it can be hugely gratifying to be able to live with less self-doubt, less anxiety, more purpose, more confidence, and a stronger sense of how kickass you are!

All the best, 
Sharmishtha Gupta, Ed.M., M.A.

Sharmishtha Gupta, Ed.M, M.A., is a warm, validating counselor and coach who can help you uncover your strengths, get clear about who you are, heal your spirit, and attain the highest and best in yourself and your relationships.

Let’s  Talk

How to Find Your Purpose in Life

How to Find Your Purpose in Life

Living Intentionally

In addition to my role as a therapist and life coach here at Growing Self, I absolutely love hearing your questions and answering them on The Love, Happiness and Success Blog and Podcast. Late summer is a transformational season, and  I know that many people are asking themselves hard questions about who they are, and what they want to do with their lives. I know this for a fact, actually, because lately we’ve had listeners of the blog and podcast reaching out with specific questions like:

“How do you find your purpose in life?”

“What to do when you feel you have no purpose in life?”

“I want to find a meaningful job/direction in my life, but I don’t know how to work out what that would be!”

“I would like to know more about how to know your on the right path. And not making decisions out of fear.”

“I want to feel alive and excited about life again but I’m so used to isolating and hiding/numbing out. How do I find happiness? Nothing’s bad but nothings great- it’s all just kind of blah.”

How do you find your calling/purpose?” 

These are big questions, but important ones. If you too have been looking for clarity and direction about your life’s purpose, your career, or who you fundamentally are as a person (and how to create the life you want) today I have a treat for you!

Embracing Your Power + Finding Your Purpose

On today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I’m talking all about how to not JUST find your purpose and highest calling, but how to start living your life with self-awareness and intention. Specifically, we’re discussing:

  • Why your ultimate purpose in life is bigger than your career
  • How to fully embrace the amount of power you already have to design the life you want
  • How to uncover the unconscious beliefs and messages that have been leading to life circumstances you don’t want
  • Targeted questions to help you get clear about what your truth is
  • The importance of deliberately living in congruence with your highest and best
  • How to develop self-awareness and mindfulness strategies that will allow you to take control of your thoughts, feelings and behaviors
  • How living intentionally and in congruence with your values leads to authentic happiness

If you have been feeling stuck lately and are struggling to find clarity and direction in life, I hope you listen to this episode.

With love and respect,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Ps: One of the strategies I offered on this episode involves thinking about times that you experience “flow” and using that as a clue to where your passions and talents lie. What are your “flow moments?” Share with us!

Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast

How to Find Your Purpose in Life

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Fruit & Flowers, Inside Decides”

Enjoy This Episode?

Please Rate, Review, and Share The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Let’s  Talk

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How to Make Real and Lasting Change, Right Now.

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The Season of Transformation

Did you know that right now is possibly the best time you’ll have all year to make real and lasting change in your life? That’s not hyperbole. In my experience as a therapist, life coach, marriage counselor, and fellow traveler on this journey of life, I have noticed that this season — the annual transition from summer to fall — is often when people are feeling most intrinsically motivated, and most able to make real and lasting change in their lives.

Perhaps it’s a natural itch to get back to work after the languid summer season, particularly if you’ve done a good job of relaxing well. Perhaps it’s a lifetime of major life transitions in the form of back to school experiences. For whatever reason, now is the time when you’re ready to cultivate fresh new energy in your life and plant the seeds of a new chapter. Whether it’s your career, your clutter, your personal habits, or your how you spend your time that is begging for re-evaluation, the time is ripe to sweep out the old and usher in the new.

On this episode of The Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I’m going to be teaching you four crucial steps to practice as you harness the natural, transformational power of this season and use it to affect real and lasting change in your life. You’ll learn how to access your self awareness, create intentional change, get deeper access to your core values, and make changes that last.

Here’s to your liberation!

Lisa Marie Bobby

Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast

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by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Enjoyed This Episode?

Please Rate and Review, and Share the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast!

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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How To Enhance Your Listening Skills & Improve Your Relationship

How To Enhance Your Listening Skills & Improve Your Relationship

Are You A Good Listener?

Listening with intent and genuine interest is a skill that, unfortunately, most of us are not born with. This skill is what ultimately builds connection and develops a reassurance in our relationships (romantic, platonic, and professional!). Did you know that most toxic relationship issues (no matter what the topic) come from a disconnect in communication? It’s true! As a Couples Counselor, I have worked with many couples who are going through these exact same disconnects in their relationship, and I want to offer you practical listening skills that you can practice to become a better, more effective listener.

The wonderful thing about diversity is that we all come from unique backgrounds. These different backgrounds make up different cultures, values, and ideals we hold as individuals. However, when you bring two (often very different) people together, there sometimes is a sort of tug-of-war into whose values are more authentic and which ideals the relationship will hold. Since we all have distinct and very personal views of “right and wrong”, this makes hearing other opinions often challenging.

Listening to your partner without judgment is essential to building connection, rebuilding trust, and fostering an environment where a relationship can grow and thrive! We all want to be heard, and when we aren’t we feel as though our emotions and needs are often overlooked. Not listening to your partner can result in power struggles, negative behaviors, resentment, and ultimately…separation.

You don’t want to wait for things to “just get better” in your relationship, because they won’t without intentionally taking the steps for improvement (both personally and as a couple). The good news is, you can start today! Here are six practical and mindful ways that you can improve your listening skills while making yourself a more responsive and connected partner.

TAKE BEING RIGHT OR WRONG OUT OF THE EQUATION

Your values are no better or worse than your partner’s values. An active listener will work hard not to judge his or her partner’s emotions.

Needs and emotions are never “correct” or “incorrect” they simply just are. Discussions that lead to black and white thinking, right or wrong, are usually about asserting control. Control then leads to blame, anger, and resentment, not connection. A partner who feels judged or is “wrong” in an argument will feel invalidated and unheard. A listener’s job is to listen, not judge. If a listener intends to hear and not control, then the result is better connection.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO AGREE ALL THE TIME

Our culture has taught us the fallacy that a healthy couple never disagrees or gets into arguments. In reality, many healthy couples disagree about important topics regarding their relationship, and no couple will ever agree entirely about everything.

Authentic listening comes from hearing and validating ideas you don’t agree with, as this shows respect for your partner. The goal is to listen and accept, and not necessarily agree, which can lead to the compromise that’s needed for couples to navigate difficult times and topics together.

REMOVE DISTRACTIONS FROM THE CONVERSATION

For most of us, this means putting the cell phone down, turning off the TV, or walking away from the computer screen. Non-verbal cues are incredibly important as a listener. If you are distracted and disengaged, then clearly you cannot validate your partner (who may feel they’re talking to a figurative wall).

To get even more real with your partner, use non-verbal cues such as touch, eye contact, and body language(as well as the verbal cue of vocal tone). These cues are what babies learn in their early development to feel safe. These same cues will calm an adult’s limbic system – allowing more safety in sharing emotions and needs. Your non-verbal cues of acceptance and security are not just a crucial listening skill, but also a critical skill for building any relationship.

CONTINUALLY PRACTICE EMPATHY

Empathy is being able to understand another person’s experience, and it’s the opposite of judgment. Your partner’s emotions and needs are real and often come from painful, deep experiences. Just as you have your own needs and emotions based off of your experiences, so does your partner.

Try putting yourself in your partner’s shoes to feel and understand their pain, or access your pain and examine how you’ve dealt with it. Everyone at some point will experience a difficult situation or circumstance, your partner included, and showing empathy and understanding will allow for more in-depth conversations and connection between the two of you.

LISTEN FULLY BEFORE FORMULATING A RESPONSE

Few behaviors invalidate more quickly than interrupting. Interrupting usually involves fear or a lack of emotional safety on the listener’s part. This behavior, however, will cause your partner to believe that you feel your opinion has more validity than theirs. Try not to rehearse a response in your head while your partner is sharing, as that disengages you from empathy and feeling what your partner is trying to share with you. Let the conversation happen organically and without distraction or interruption of preplanned responses (that could ultimately cause more pain than healing).

VALIDATE YOUR PARTNER

Many of my clients in couple’s counseling have revealed to me that feeling unheard is one of their biggest triggers to pain and anger.  So how do you show your partner that you genuinely have heard their emotions and needs?

One way that has been proven to be effective is to repeat (in your own words) what you think you heard your partner say to you, and to ask if you heard them correctly. Be careful not to infer your interpretations into what your partner said, as those may be incorrect and invalidating – simply repeat what you heard. If you don’t get everything, that’s okay! You can ask your partner to repeat what you may have missed. This is even more effective when using your non-verbal cues for safety.

IT TAKES PRACTICE…

Listening can be a difficult skill to learn, and you won’t perfect this skill in just one conversation. If you continue to practice these six steps to improve your listening skills you will see improvement overtime (and it will get easier and more natural too!).

Self-care and general happiness are also tied to helping with the development of listening skills, as well as therapeutic techniques such as thought stopping and grounding activities. However, those who have suffered from trauma may have difficulty accessing these skills, and individual therapy to process and heal from the trauma may be needed to listen safely and with compassion. It’s true, listening can be difficult, but the rewards of being able to do so are numerous: clarity, understanding, emotional honesty, and better connection. You have the power to make changes with your listening skills and to show your partner that you can take that next step and truly hear them with empathy and understanding!

All the best,
Seth Bender, M.A., LMFTC

Seth Bender, M.A., LMFTC is a marriage counselor, therapist, and life coach who helps people create deeper relationships, heal from difficult life experiences, and increase their confidence. His warm, non-judgmental approach makes it safe to discover new things about yourself, and take positive action to change your life.

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How to Relax (When You’re a Type-A Stress-Case)

How to Relax (When You’re a Type-A Stress-Case)

It’s Hard to Relax When You’re a Superstar

Here at Growing Self our therapy and life coaching clients are generally successful, high-achieving people on a path of personal growth. Because of this, I have a soft spot for the superstars, and I know that being a go-getting, productive, conscientious, high-achieving, intelligent, successful person has many, many benefits. You get things done, you’re on top of it, and you are probably extremely successful in many areas of life.

And… it’s probably hard for you to relax.

How to Relax When You’re an Over-Achiever

Because you are so conscientious and successful you probably do everything you’re supposed to. You take vacations, you exercise, you have a healthy diet, and you practice self-care. But it still might feel hard to let yourself truly relax. Even when you’re having fun you are thinking about the next thing, and doing “nothing” (as in the Dutch practice of Niksen) feels like a waste of time compared to all the important or goal-directed things you could (probably feel like you should) be doing.

Believe it or not, learning how to relax is a very important life-skill. Just like learning how to manage your emotions, making it a priority to exercise and sleep, managing your finances, having satisfying relationships, practicing good self care, and eating healthy foods, learning how to relax — how to truly relax — is a skill set that is acquired through education and practice.

Real relaxation, the kind that restores you and allows you to be more productive, more creative, more resilient, and happier, is much more than about taking a bath once in a while. Real relaxation requires a high degree of self awareness and commitment, as well as the development of specific internal skills. (Ha! You can always recognize a fellow Type-A over-achiever when they describe relaxation skills as a project — hello my friend.)

Yes, I know from both professional experience in working with extremely successful, high-achieving people as well as from my own personal experience, that being a Type-A superstar has a very real dark side including exhaustion, agitation, anxiety and overwork. Burnout is an experience that many hard working and conscientious people can succumb to if not careful. Without vital relaxation skills, you can start to experience a lack of motivation, tiredness, emotional numbness, and loss of joy and creativity in your day to day life. FYI, “Burnout” is real: It’s finally gotten recognized as an occupational phenomenon by the ICD!

The Keys to Authentic Relaxation

Today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast is just for you, my high-achieving compadre. We’ll be discussing:

  • The mind-body connection that makes you feel stressed out even when you’re relaxing
  • New ideas to help you prioritize your self-care and relaxation
  • The real source of stress (it’s not what you think… except when it is)
  • Why “relaxing” behaviors (massages, hot baths, vacations) won’t help you truly de-stress
  • How to combat the stressful thinking styles that will interfere with true relaxation
  • The skills and strategies that will actually help you reduce stress, relax, and restore your mind, body and soul.

I hope this discussion helps you achieve the rest and relaxation that you deserve, and that it helps you (paradoxically) become even more productive, creative, forward-thinking and successful as a result!

From me to you,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Listen to the Podcast

How to Relax (When You're a Type-A Stress-Case)

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Damian Jurado and Richard Swift, “Hello Sunshine”

Enjoy the Podcast?

Please Rate, Review & Subscribe to The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Google Play

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Let’s  Talk

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Do you ever feel the pressure to ALWAYS be perfect (even when life is everything but perfect)?? To be happy, healthy, and successful are all goals that we want to achieve, but sometimes just acknowledging reality and living true to yourself is really what you need to live a full life. Today on The Love, Happiness and Success blog we are talking about the problem with perfectionism and why you should "keep the first picture." Read More
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