Sometimes people say, “I have no confidence in myself. I don’t have low self esteem, I have no self esteem! I always feel I’m not good enough. What should I do?”
When I hear such things in my clinical practice, I try to help them be playful. If they say they have no confidence, I might say, “Are you sure? Are you confident that you have no confidence?” If they say yes, well then, see, you do have confidence! You just need to apply it in other areas.
You can stop being so confident about only negative things. It’s an option to do that if you want to, of course, but go ahead and be confident about positive things, too. And then that begins a conversation that continues to unfold in a helpful way.
When someone says “self esteem” –– and this goes for “confidence” too, because people often talk about these things as if they’re things, as if they’re substances –– I point out that there’s no such thing as “self esteem.” It’s not a thing you’ve acquired. It’s just a label for an activity we’re doing.
This is one reason my approach is unique as far as I’ve seen in 30 years, in terms of being a hypnotherapist, is that I recognize that language is inherently hypnotic, and thinking is inherently hypnotic. Because hypnosis simply means suggestion. So every time you’re listening to your internal dialogue and it tells you, “Do this, do that,” and you do it –– or it tells you you’re a dummy and you feel bad –– you’re accepting suggestions.
Another aspect of the hypnotic nature of language is nouns. We’re taught that nouns are things, so when you use a noun, either subtly or explicitly, in a very vivid way, you’re hallucinating a “thing.” And there really is no thing there. All that there is, is activity.
So it’s not that we need to have more confidence. It’s not that we lack “self esteem,” like, “Oh, where can I get self esteem?” because “self esteem” is simply a noun that masks a process we’re doing. We don’t see it, but we’re telling ourselves a stream of negative hypnotic suggestions: “I’m not good enough, I’m not as good as him, I’m not as good as her,” or “I should do this, I have to do that . . .”. And we feel bad!
Then we label that bad feeling as “no self esteem.” No. We work perfectly. Anybody who believed those negative suggestions would feel the same way. So I often tell people who are in the midst of their suffering, “Look, this is not a problem. It just shows that you work perfectly.” You just need to change your activity, as opposed to believing there’s something wrong with you and you’re defective. No. It’s just that you’re doing an activity that perfectly creates that bad feeling.
We need to understand that we are already master hypnotists. We’re just schooled in hypnosis without it being directly pointed out to us as such. So we don’t learn that we can generate positive suggestions, because we’re already habituated to believing the negative ones.
“That May Be So And” – An Exercise for Building “Self Esteem”
1. Self esteem is a label for a mental activity. If you change the activity, it can change how you feel. Think of a negative message you heard in your internal dialogue today, or generate one now. For example, the first thought says, “You’re so slow-minded about math.” And the second thought agrees, “Yeah, that’s true.”
2. Are you feeling bad yet? If so, that shows you work perfectly! Now here’s the fun part. Whenever you hear such a negative thought, you’re going to add, “That may be so, and . . .” (Add a good quality you like about yourself or what you do).
3. So the next time your mind generates a negative thought such as, “You never could carry a tune,” respond with a positive thought, like this: “That may be so, and . . . You may also recall that I’m a good cook who enjoys sharing food with others. How generous!”
Try it and let me know how it goes. Good luck!
© Jack Elias, jackelias.com, permission to share with acknowledgement